SEOUL- According to the latest reports by the Reuters, after the agreement between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June ‘to help return the remains of American troops killed in the 1950-53 Korean War’, it was seen as one of the more attainable goals to come out of his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
American officials expect North Korea to hand over around 50 sets of remains in coming weeks, but the drawn-out process of negotiations to get to this point highlights the complications involved in the issue. Soon after the June summit, Trump announced North Korea had returned the remains of 200 soldiers that had already been found. However, negotiations over the actual handing over of the remains have dragged on.
More than 7,700 U.S. troops who fought in the Korean War remain unaccounted for, with about 5,300 of those lost in what is now North Korea, according to the Defense Accounting Agency, the U.S. military agency tasked with tracking down prisoners of war and troops missing in action.
The Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the United States and North Korea still technically at war.
“The North Koreans are using the remains issue as a bargaining chip,” said Bill Richardson, a former U.S. diplomat with experience negotiating with North Korea, including during the recovery of the remains of seven Americans in 2007.
“They’re stalling,” he told Reuters in an interview by phone. “I think in the end the North Koreans will turn over the majority of the remains that they have – but it will have a price. Not just a financial price.”
Decades-old remains that North Korea has handed over in the past have not always been identifiable as U.S. troops. Between the 1990 and 2005, more than 400 caskets of remains found in North Korea were returned to the United States, and the bodies of some 330 Americans were accounted for, according to the DPAA.