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Remains of US troops killed in North Korea could return home if Trump summit with Kim Jong-un goes well

'If the meeting takes place and they get past the nuclear and missile issues, it's the third item on the agenda'

Peter Stubley
Friday 06 April 2018 13:29 BST
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US soldiers in action during the Korean War
US soldiers in action during the Korean War (Keystone/Getty Images)

The remains of US troops who died in the Korean War could be returned home if a summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is successful.

Repatriation of some of the 5,300 American casualties left in North Korea is said to be "high on the agenda" for the talks expected next month.

Joint operations to recover the remains were suspended more than a decade ago because of rising tensions over the rogue state's nuclear and missile programmes.

Frank Metersky, a Korean War veteran and advocate for the support group Korea Cold War Families of the Missing, said he had been told by officials that the repatriation issue was "third on the list".

"If the meeting takes place and they get past the nuclear and missile issues, it's the third item on the agenda," he told the Associated Press.

There are indications that Mr Trump could even raise repatriation in person with Kim Jong-un.

Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador who secured the return of six sets of remains from North Korea in 2007, said he hoped the North Koreans would turn over some remains as a "goodwill gesture" before the summit.

"This would help enormously to diffuse some tension."

It is also hoped that Kim Jon-un might be willing to release three Americans of Korean descent it is holding in custody for alleged "anti-state" activities.

Nearly 7,800 US troops remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, with around 2,500 of those in South Korea.

Joint US and North Korean operations recovered 229 sets of remains between 1996 and 2005 at a cost of $19.5m.

The programme - which critics branded "bones for bucks" - was suspended in May 2005 after North Korea announced it had nuclear weapons.

Efforts to restart the recovery work have stalled in the face of continued nuclear and rocket testing.

Last year the rogue state it claimed it had tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the US mainland.

Richard Downes, president of the Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs, told the Associated Press that he was hopeful recovery work could restart.

"If progress is made, even without the remains issue being raised, windows may open sometime afterward," he said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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