The Koreas

US and North Korea Begin Discussion on Returning Remains of US Soldiers

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The Koreas

US and North Korea Begin Discussion on Returning Remains of US Soldiers

After a missed meeting, North Korean and U.S. representatives met to discuss the return of the remains of U.S. soldiers.

US and North Korea Begin Discussion on Returning Remains of US Soldiers

A South Korean army soldier watches the list of the U. S. soldiers who were killed in the Korean War at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, July 15, 2018.

Credit: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

North Korea and the United States held a general-level meeting at Panmunjom on July 15 to discuss sending back the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War.

According to the South Korean government and multiple sources from U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), North Korea and the United States met at Tongilgak on the northside of Panmunjom at around 10 a.m. for approximately two hours. Likely discussion topics include the timeframe, number, and method of transporting the remains.

Specific details on the result of the meeting are yet to be disclosed. Sources say that North Korea and the United States may hold working group meetings as a follow-up to the July 15 meeting.

Major General Michael Minihan, chief of staff for the United Nations Command, reportedly participated in the meeting as the U.S. representative. His North Korean counterpart is known to be a lieutenant general, equivalent to a U.S. major general, from the Korean People’s Army.

Three USFK vehicles escorting U.S. representatives arrived at the southern end of the Tongil-Daegyo bridge at approximately 8:30 a.m., placing a UN flag before heading in toward Panmunjom.

The general-level meeting between the United Nations Command and North Korea was the first of its kind since March 2009. Once a regular event that began in 1998 between a USAF major general and a North Korean lieutenant general, such a meeting has occurred 16 times.

The meeting served as a platform to discuss primary security issues, including the disputes surrounding the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea and maintaining the Armistice Agreement. It is the first time in more than nine years that the discussion has focused on returning the remains of U.S. soldiers.

The decision to hold this meeting came after the United Nations Command agreed to North Korea’s offer to hold a general-level meeting. Prior to this, North Korea had failed to participate in a working-level discussion that was supposed to be held on July 12 to discuss returning the remains. The United States initially planned to hold a colonel-level meeting, but it accepted North Korea’s request to move up the rank.

South Korean authorities said recovering the remains of U.S. soldiers “was the sole topic for this meeting.” However, the possibility still stands that North Korea may request certain actions in return, or call for a follow-up general-level meeting to discuss issues surrounding the Armistice regime.

Returning the remains of U.S. soldiers was part of the June 12 agreement between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Article 4 of the Trump-Kim agreement states that the U.S. and North Korea “commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”

It was reported that U.S. forces readied some 100 wooden caskets at Panmunjom late last month to use in the event of recovering the remains from North Korea.