North Korea is expected to return the remains of fallen American military personnel as part of a recent agreement, but it’s unclear whom or what the regime will actually send back.
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement at their historic summit in Singapore. “The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.” the joint statement read. While this is decidedly good news, North Korea does not have a particularly outstanding track record when it comes to successfully returning the remains of foreign nationals.
North Korea returned the supposed remains of British fighter pilot Flight Lt. Desmond Hinton in 2011, who was shot down near the North Korean capital during the Korean War (1950-1953), but laboratory analysis in London revealed that what the North Koreans actually sent were the remains of a dead animal, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
When Britain protested, the North Korean diplomatic corp scrambled for answers, reaching out to the military unit responsible. “Too bad,” the North Korean military said in response to inquiries from the deeply embarrassed North Korean diplomats in London, according to Thae Yong Ho, a North Korean defector who served the regime as a senior North Korean official at the embassy in London. The anecdote was described in Thae’s new book on his many experiences as a high-ranking North Korean official.
Tokyo has also encountered a number of problems with the remains of Japanese nationals returned by North Korea.
North Korea turned over the remains of eight purported kidnapping victims in 2002, but the Japanese government determined through DNA testing that the returned remains did not belong to the abductees, the victims’ families revealed at a United Nations conference held in early May.
The U.S. expects to receive the remains of as many as 200 fallen American service members in the near future. “We got back our great fallen heroes, the remains sent back today, already 200 got sent back,” Trump said at a rally in Minnesota Wednesday. The Department of Defense would not confirm or deny the president’s statement, simply telling The Daily Caller News Foundation the Pentagon has “nothing to add at this time.” (RELATED: Trump: 200 Remains Back From North Korea, Media’s Coverage ‘Almost Treasonous’)
Roughly 7,700 American military personnel remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. An estimated 5,300 are believed to have died in North Korean territory. Between 1990 and 2005, North Korea returned the remains of 229 American service members. Another six were returned in 2007, and in 2015, the remains of American soldier Robert V. Witt, who died as a prisoner of war, were returned.
In many cases, the remains have yet to be identified, as the remains of fallen military personnel are often mixed together. In one instance, it took South Korea and the U.S. nearly two decades to identify one soldier, and it turned out that the purported remains of an American soldier were actually the remains of a South Korean soldier, according to TheWSJ.
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