U.S., North Korea hold talks to repatriate servicemember remains

Geneva Stokes
July 19, 2018

North Korean and US officials met on Monday to discuss the next steps in repatriating the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War.

The preliminary details emerged after US and North Korean officials held working-level talks Monday in the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone. Gen. Michael A. Minihan, chief of staff for the U.N. Command.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo sent a formal invitation on Friday to South Korea's president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Widodo's spokesman said, but it was not immediately clear if either has responded.

The North's proposal of talks with the UN Command, even though the UN Command is led by the USA, was seen as an attempt to use the meeting to discuss not only the repatriation of war remains, but also other issues, such as a proposal to jointly declare an end to the 1950-1953 Korean War. It would be the first time that the remains believed to be those of US troops have been directly returned by North Korean officials in 13 years.

Now that he's declared the nuclear programme complete, he is trying to show North Koreans that he's making good on his economic pledge. The U.S. team would then fly out with the remains on July 27, either to Osan Air Base in South Korea or to Hawaii.

The rendezvous represents the first general-level talks between the U.S. and North Korea since March 2009. The formal end of the truce may pave the way to a lasting peace, but at the same time accelerate the withdrawal of USA forces from the South.

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Since taking power when his dictator father Kim Jong Il died in late 2011, Mr Kim, 34, has promised to boost living standards and sought to project an image of youth and modernity while pushing hard to build up North Korea's nuclear capabilities.

U.S. and North Korean officials agreed to resume joint field activities to search for the remains of Americans missing from the war, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

North Korea and the United States conducted joint operations to recover the remains of US soldiers from 1996 to 2005 but stopped when their relations soured as Pyongyang accelerated its nuclear program. There has been very little progress on disarmament since Mr Kim met Donald Trump in Singapore.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that amnesty will be granted to those who were convicted of crimes against the country and people on the occasion of the North's 70th founding anniversary.

The United States and North Korea have also agreed to restart efforts to search for the remains of other Americans in the northern part of the peninsula, according to the State Department.

In the letter, Kim refers to Trump as "Your Excellency Mr. President", hailing the summit as the "start of a meaningful journey" toward warmer relations between the USA and North Korea.

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