The joint declaration signed by President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un included a commitment to “recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”
The Associated Press labeled this agreement “the most tangible outcome” of the summit, noting that about 7,800 U.S. troops remain unaccounted for since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Previous recovery efforts returned 229 sets of American remains before deteriorating relations brought them to a halt in 2005.
Yonhap News added that another six sets of remains were given to the United States when Bill Richardson, then the governor of New Mexico, paid a diplomatic visit to North Korea.
“According to the Pentagon’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, most of the missing Americans died in major battles or as prisoners of war. Others died along the wayside or in small villages. Many of the losses from aircraft crashes also occurred near battle zones or roads connecting them,” the AP recalls.
Yonhap reports that South Korea hopes to begin a major project to recover the remains of soldiers from the De-Militarized Zone between the two Koreas, an initiative South Korean President Moon Jae-in described in his Memorial Day speech.
“All of our members have served in combat and we understand the importance of bringing our war dead home to bring closure to families. We fully understand the peace talks were about denuclearization. We wanted this to be part of that as well,” Veterans of Foreign Wars National Commander Keith Harman told NPR on Tuesday.
The VFW sent President Trump a letter before the summit urging him to take up the issue of American remains with Kim. It was among what Trump described as “countless calls and letters and tweets” asking him to press the issue.
“As the leader of the free world, we urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that those who paid the ultimate price for freedom during the Korean War are finally returned home to their families,” Harman wrote in the letter to Trump, which was also delivered to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
According to Trump, he brought up the recovery of American remains near the end of his discussion with Kim.
“He agreed to that so quickly and so nice — it was really a very nice thing, and he understands it. He understands it,” Trump said of Kim’s response.