Trump thanks Kim for fulfilling promise on Korean War remains
North Korea has returned what are thought to be the remains of missing US soldiers killed in the 1950-53 conflict.
US president Donald Trump thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for “fulfilling a promise” to return the remains of missing US soldiers from the Korean War.
His comments came as a US military plane made a rare trip into North Korea to retrieve 55 cases of remains.
North Korea returned the remains of what are believed to be American servicemen killed during the Korean War, a handover that followed through on a promise Mr Kim made to Mr Trump when the leaders met in June in Singapore.
This is the first tangible result from the much-hyped summit.
Mr Trump, addressing reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, said a plane was carrying the remains “of some great fallen heroes from America back from the Korean War”.
He said his vice president Mike Pence would greet the families and the remains of the soldiers, and thanked Mr Kim “for keeping his word”.
Mr Trump added: “We have many others coming but I want to thank Chairman Kim in front of the media for fulfilling a promise that he made to me and I’m sure that he will continue to fulfil that promise as they search and search and search.”
He said that “these incredible American heroes will soon lay at rest on sacred American soil”.
The United Nations Command said 55 cases of remains were retrieved from North Korea. The White House earlier confirmed that a US Air Force C-17 aircraft containing remains of fallen service members had departed Wonsan, a Northern coastal city, on its way to the Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, near the South Korean capital of Seoul. A formal repatriation ceremony will be held there on Wednesday.
At the air base, US servicemen and a military honour guard lined up on the tarmac to receive the remains, which were carried in boxes covered in blue UN flags.
About 7,700 US soldiers are listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War, and 5,300 of the remains are believed to still be in North Korea.
The war killed millions, including 36,000 American soldiers.
US forces Korea commander Gen Vincent K Brooks said the retrieval mission had been successful.
“Now, we will prepare to honour our fallen before they continue on their journey home.”
Following the honors ceremony on Wednesday, the remains will be flown to Hawaii for scientific testing. A series of forensic examinations will be done to determine if the remains are human and if the dead were American or allied troops killed in the conflict.
Mr Trump late Thursday tweeted the repatriation was occurring and said: “After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un.”
Officials in North Korea had no comment on the handover on Friday, the 65th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, which the country celebrated as the day of “victory in the fatherland liberation war”.
The repatriation of remains could be followed by stronger North Korean demands for fast-tracked discussions to formally end the war, which was stopped with an armistice and not a peace treaty. South Korea’s defence ministry also said the North agreed to general-level military talks next week at a border village to discuss reducing tensions across the countries’ heavily armed border.
The remains are believed to be some of the more than 200 that North Korea has held in storage for some time, and were likely recovered from land during farming or construction. The vast majority of the war dead, however, have yet to be located and retrieved from cemeteries and battlefields across the countryside.
Efforts to recover American war dead had been stalled for more than a decade because of a stand-off over North Korea’s nuclear programme and a previous US claim that security arrangements for its personnel working in the North were insufficient.