U.S. and North Korean military officials reportedly met Sunday to discuss the repatriation of the remains of American war dead.
The U.S. team was led by Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael A. Minihan, the chief of staff for the U.N. Command, and the North Koreans sent a two-star general to the negotiations, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. Sunday’s meeting marks the first time in nine years that generals from the U.S. and North Korea have sat down together for talks, Reuters reported.
The discussions at the border, which lasted about two hours, focused on the only concrete component of the agreement signed by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their landmark summit in Singapore. The agreement clearly states that “the United States and the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”
The president falsely claimed at a rally in late June that North Korea had already returned the remains of a couple hundred fallen service members. “We got back our great fallen heroes — the remains sent back today. Already, 200 got sent back,” Trump said. At that time, the U.S. military was preparing for the possible return of the remains. One hundred coffins were sent to the border in preparation for a potential transfer. (RELATED: US Military Sends 100 Coffins To Korean Border To Collect War Dead)
The U.S. and North Korea were initially scheduled to meet Thursday, but the North Koreans never showed for the meeting. (RELATED: North Korea Didn’t Show For Talks About Returning Remains Of US War Dead)
The failure to show for talks raised serious questions about their commitments, especially after North Korea rebuked the U.S. shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a two-day trip to Pyongyang last weekend. (RELATED: North Korean Foreign Ministry Says Talks With Pompeo ‘Regrettable’)
After missing the meeting Thursday, the North Koreans called midday to reschedule for Sunday.
The successful repatriation of U.S. war dead would be a positive sign as negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea hit a speed bump. The difficulties the U.S. has faced during this process paints a clear picture of how things will go if and when the two sides begin seriously discussing the most important issue — the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
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