North Korea Expected To Return US War Dead On 65th Anniversary Of The End Of Korean War Hostilities

REUTERS/USAF/ Pictures of the Year 2004

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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North Korea is expected to return the remains of America’s fallen service members Friday, the 65th anniversary of the end of Korean War hostilities.

“North Korea recently took two truckloads of wooden boxes to be used for the remains repatriation. It’s expected to hand over the remains on July 27 as agreed upon,” a diplomatic source in Seoul told the Yonhap News Agency. The handoff will reportedly occur exactly 65 years since the armistice agreement bringing an end to Korean War hostilities was signed.

The U.S. military in late July reportedly sent around 100 wooden coffins (temporary transfer cases) to the inter-Korean border for the highly anticipated repatriation of the remains of American service members who fell during the Korean War. (RELATED: US Military Sends 100 Coffins To Korean Border To Collect War Dead)

The return of American war dead is one of the provisions of the agreement North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump signed in Singapore.

“The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified,” the landmark agreement read.

While the handover was expected weeks ago, orchestrating the return of U.S. war dead has been a challenge, as negotiations with Pyongyang have been far from easy. For instance, North Korea was supposed to send officials to meet with their American counterparts at the DMZ on July 12. North Korea never showed, leaving the U.S. officials waiting for hours. (RELATED: North Korea Didn’t Show For Talks About Returning Remains Of US War Dead)

The no-show followed a particularly rough meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials in Pyongyang one week earlier. (RELATED: North Korean Foreign Ministry Says Talks With Pompeo ‘Regrettable’)

For the first time in nearly a decade, though, U.S. and North Korean generals met at the inter-Korean border on July 15 for negotiations, which included the return of American war dead. Two days later, it was revealed that the North Koreans appear to finally be ready to start the transfer. (RELATED: It Looks Like North Korea May Finally Be Ready To Start Handing Over US War Dead)

The return of America’s fallen heroes is considered a gesture of goodwill between old enemies. Other North Korean actions perceived as positive steps in the right direction include the demolition of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, the release of three American hostages, and the dismantling of key facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launch Station. (RELATED: Satellite Images: North Korea Takes New Steps Toward Fulfilling The Promises Kim Jong Un Made To Trump)

Questions, however, remain about the North’s commitment to denuclearization.

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