As North Korea's vague, timetable-free promises to one day denuclearize the Korean peninsula have melted away, President Trump has emphasized his shrewd bargaining for the remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean War.
Dozens of American, South Korean and other soldiers and officials from United Nations countries that fought in the Korean War conducted a ceremony with full military honors before the remains were loaded into military transport aircraft for the flight to Hawaii on Wednesday. North Korea has long argued its nuclear weapons are a response to USA military threats, saying it wants to sign a peace treaty with the United States to formally end the war.
After a solemn ceremony at the US military's Osan Air Base in South Korea, 55 boxes of remains draped in the United Nations flag were taken to a pair of USA military planes, which flew them to a military laboratory in Hawaii for analysis and identification. "They're coming back to the United States".
The Pentagon estimates that almost 7,700 US troops are unaccounted for from the war; among them are 5,300 believed to have been killed north of the 38th parallel, which largely follows the boundary between North and South Korea. However, while USA intelligence agencies agree that the Kangson site is used to enrich uranium, not all European intelligence officials are so sure.
The boxes transferred at the ceremony in South Korea were covered in United Nations flags because many other nations fought with the United States during the brutal three year conflict, though the DPAA has noted the remains are presumed to be Americans.
There are no further details about the military dog-tag handed over when a USA military aircraft flew to Kalma Airport, near the North Korean city of Wonsan, on Friday.
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The remains will be examined at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and experts there will be responsible for identifying the remains. Mattis praised that North Korean returned the remains but said it is not a guarantee that the bones are American.
The meeting, their second since last month, held in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), was created to follow on from an inter-Korean summit in April in which the leaders of the two Koreas agreed to defuse tensions and halt "all hostile acts".
"There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea".
"It's a very thorough process with many, many procedures so it takes a long time", he said.
Trump's conciliatory tone stands in stark contrast to his rhetoric just previous year, when he referred to the North Korean leader as a "little rocket man" in response to Pyongyang's recent ballistic missile tests.
While the identification process of the remains could take anywhere form days to decades, Byrd said "there is no reason to doubt that they do relate to Korean War losses". But many experts say those are neither irrevocable nor serious steps that could show the country is honest about denuclearization.
The Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war.
The Washington Post spoke to multiple intelligence officials who have monitored "ongoing activity" recently from North Korea's nuclear and missile testing facilities. In addition, a series of US-North Korean recovery efforts, termed "joint field activities", between 1996 and 2005 yielded 229 caskets of remains, of which 153 have been identified, according to the Pentagon.