N Korea returns war dead with one name tag

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PYONG YANG : North Korea has returned 55 boxes believed to contain the remains of US troops killed during the Korean War, but included just one military identification tag, US officials say.

A forensic expert said initial tests showed the remains were “likely to be American”.

The boxes are en route from South Korea to Hawaii for extensive examination.

North Korea previously returned the purported remains of foreign soldiers that turned out to be misidentified.

On Wednesday, the US military held a repatriation ceremony at Osan air base in South Korea, where the boxes had arrived the previous week.

“There’s no reason at this point to doubt that they do relate to Korean War losses,” said John Byrd, a forensic anthropologist working for the Hawaii-based agency in charge of identifying the remains.

He said officials have been in touch with the family of the service member referenced in the identifying tag, known as a dog tag, and emphasised that it was too early to confirm if that identity matched accompanying remains.

In 2011, Pyongyang returned purported remains of a British fighter pilot, but they turned out to belong to a dead animal.

US officials have indicated that they believe the latest handover is a legitimate offer.

“We look forward to potentially pursuing [remains recovery] operations in North Korea in the future and we’re very hopeful,” said Rear Admiral Jon Kreitz, the deputy director of Hawaii’s military laboratory.

The return of US remains was one of four points listed in a joint declaration after the June summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim also agreed to work towards the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”, however reports this week indicate that North Korea may be building new missiles.

The repatriation brings renewed hope to families who have waited decades for closure, although the full identification process could take years.–Agencies

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