North Korea is really dragging their feet returning US troop remains

Matt Saintsing
July 12, 2018 - 3:03 pm

Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA

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North Korea seems to be taking their sweet time repatriating the remains of U.S. troops from the Korean War, further delaying closure to the families of the fallen.

A delegation of American military officials was snubbed Thursday, when their North Korean counterparts decided they had better things to do than attend a planned meeting on repatriating remains of U.S. troops killed during the Korean War, according to several reports

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to return remains of American service members in June, but after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang last week, the hermit kingdom has since continued to dodge the issue. Thursday's clear brushoff is the latest and not-so-greatest coming from the North.

“We were ready,” an official told the Washington Post. “It just didn’t happen. They didn’t show.” 

The clear snub is sure to fuel cynicism and disbelief over the North’s commitment to return American war dead. 

On Thursday, Trump released a letter he received from Kim with the caption, “Great progress being made!” The letter, dated July 6, was sent before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang and paints quite the optimistic picture of future relations between the two countries. 

Kim praises both Trump’s and his own, “strong will, sincere efforts and unique approach” for a “new future between the (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and the U.S.” 

The letter does not, however, mention the issue of denuclearization or repatriation of American service members. But it does contain soft and flattering words like “meaningful journey,” and “faithful implementation of the joint statement.” 

The issue of sending back the remains of American troops who died during the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, isn't anything new. Thousands of U.S. troops were left in Korea and listed as either missing in action or prisoners of war. The last time North Korea transferred remains to the United States was 2005. 

Kim and President Trump agreed to recover and return the remains at the Singapore summit on June 12. The joint statement signed by the two leaders pledged the “immediate repatriation of those already identified.” 

But for the families of the fallen, those words continue to ring hollow. According to the Pentagon, 7,700 troops are still unaccounted for, and 5,300 are believed to have died on the North Korean soil. 

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