President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is hopeful North Korea will soon begin returning the remains of U.S. troops missing from the 1950-53 Korean War.
“I think the process is starting very soon, I hope,” he said in an address to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City.
Trump made no mention of previous remarks and tweets in which he claimed that North Korea had already returned about 200 sets of remains.
“We got back our great fallen heroes, the remains sent back today, already 200 got sent back,” he said at a June 23 rally in Duluth, Minnesota. However, there have been no transfers so far, officials have said.
In defending his June 12 Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump said that he made the return of remains a priority at the meeting. He said he told Kim, “I would really appreciate if you can do that,” and Kim responded: “It will be done.”
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, about 7,700 U.S. service members are still listed as missing from the Korean War; about 5,300 of them are believed to have been lost in what is now North Korea.
Despite reports there has been little progress in North Korea’s denuclearization or on the recovery of remains since the summit, Trump said, “New images show North Korea has begun the process of dismantling a missile site. It seems to be going very well.”
He noted there were Korean War veterans in the VFW audience. “As you may know, we’re also working to bring back the remains of your brothers in arms who gave their lives to Korea, and I hope that very soon these fallen warriors will begin coming home to lay at rest in American soil,” he said.
Earlier this month, a U.S. military team led by Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Minihan, chief of staff of the United Nations Command, went to the border village of Panmunjom near the Demilitarized Zone for scheduled talks on remains recoveries, but the North Korean team failed to show up.
The U.S. and North Korean sides later met and reportedly agreed on the return of about 50 sets of remains at an unspecified date, and also reached tentative accord on restarting joint recovery efforts in North Korea.
U.S. Forces Korea has already moved about 100 wooden transfer caskets to the border area in anticipation that the return of remains will begin soon.
— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.
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