Officials say North Korea returning remains shows improved relations
A US military plane made a rare flight into North Korea on Friday to retrieve 55 cases said to contain the remains of US service members missing since the Korean War â" a move US officials hailed as a sign of improving relations between the two longtime enemies.
The Air Force C-17 left Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, to fly to the coastal North Korean city of Wonsan to pick up the remains before returning to the base on what was the 65th anniversary of the end of hostilities in the war.
Troops from different UN countries stood as an honor guard at Osan, as white-gloved troops in different uniforms descended the aircraftâs ramp holding the cases, which were wrapped in the UN flag.
The cases were placed in minivans on the runway and will be flown to Hawaii for a repatriation ceremony Wednesday after a ceremony in Seoul.
Close to 7,700 US service mem bers remain unaccounted for from the 1950-53 Korean War, with about 5,300 lost in North Korea. More than 36,000 Americans died in the war.
It was unclear where the Fridayâs remains had been stored in North Korea.
Radio Free Asia reported that many more may be in the possession of North Koreans who dug up remains at battlefields or found them while farming or excavating and hoped to sell them.
It was unclear precisely what the returned boxes contained, with Defense Secretary James Mattis saying some might not be Americans, or even human.
âWe donât know whoâs in those boxes,â Mattis said.
In Hawaii, forensic and DNA testing will be performed to determine if the remains are US or allied troops and if their identities can be pinned down.
Still, Mattis said the return was important.
âWe have families that, when they got the telegram, have never had closure. Theyâve never gone out and had the body returned,â he said.
Trump thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for âfulfilling a promise.â
âIâm sure that he will continue to fulfill that promise as they search and search and search,â he said.
âThese incredible American heroes will soon lay at rest on sacred American soil.â
Vice President Mike Pence, the son of a Korean War vet, will greet families when the remains reach the US.
With Post wiresSource: Google News North Korea | Netizen 24 North Korea