Remains of US war dead in North Korea start journey home after 65 years

UN honour guards prepare to carry the remains of US solders killed in the Korean War, after arriving from North Korea at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek on July 27, 2018. PHOTO: AFP
A soldier carries a casket containing the remains of a US soldier killed in the Korean War. PHOTO: AFP
A soldier carries a casket containing the remains of a US soldier killed in the Korean War. PHOTO: REUTERS

PYEONGTAEK, SOUTH KOREA (NYTIMES) - Remains believed to be those of 55 US servicemen were flown out of North Korea on Friday (July 27), the first visible result of President Donald Trump's efforts to bring the US war dead home 65 years after the end of combat in the Korean War.

A US Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo plane carrying the remains landed at Osan Air Base south of Seoul, the South Korean capital.

Hundreds of US service members as well as a military honour guard lined up on the tarmac to mark the return of the fallen troops.

As the honour guard and service members stood at attention, 55 small coffins containing the remains were individually carried off the plane by dress-uniformed soldiers and loaded into six vans.

Each of the boxes was wrapped with the UN flag, the flag that US troops fought under in the Korean War.

From Osan Air Base, the remains will be transferred to the Hawaii-based Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency, where forensic work will be carried out to identify those of prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Remains that were returned in the past from North Korea were found to have been mixed with those of unidentified people and even animals.

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Fighting in the Korean War was halted with an armistice signed 65 years ago on Friday. But thousands of US troops killed in North Korea have not been returned because the war was never formally concluded with a peace treaty and because North Korea and the United States lack diplomatic ties.

The remains flown out on Friday were the first handed over since a joint effort by US military experts and North Korean workers between 1996 and 2005.

The group collected the remains of what were believed to have been 220 US soldiers.

Since then, the Pentagon's efforts to bring the war dead home have been overshadowed by tensions over the North's nuclear weapons programme.

A breakthrough came when Mr Trump held a summit meeting with North Korea's leader, Mr Kim Jong Un, in Singapore on June 12.

More than 36,000 US troops died in the Korean War. Of them, some 7,700 remain unaccounted for, including 5,300 believed to have died in the North.

Mr Trump thanked Mr Kim in a tweet for the return of the remains.

"The Remains of American Servicemen will soon be leaving North Korea and heading to the United States! After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un," he wrote.

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