July 26 (UPI) — An American military jet left North Korea with the remains of U.S. service members killed in the Korean War, the White House confirmed.
The US Air Force C-17 took off from Osan Air Base in South Korea Friday morning and landed in Wonsan, where North Korea turned over 55 wooden cases believed to be holding the remains, CNN reported.
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un reached an agreement during their June 12 in Singapore.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that North Korea accepted wooden transit caskets sent by the United States to begin returning the remains on Friday, the 65th anniversary of the signing of the armistice agreement that ended the fighting.
The United States sent 100 coffins to the North Korean border last month in preparation to receive some of the remains of nearly 200 U.S. service members from the war, which had already been recovered.
The remains will be transported to a forensics lab in Hawaii to be identified, a process which may take months.
More than 36,000 U.S. troops died in the war and 7,702 are missing in action, including 5,300 believed to be missing in North Korea, according to the State Department.
“One of the things that is so important is for the American people to understand that this is just the beginning,” Mickey Bergman, vice president of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, told the Washington Post. “This is going to take years. It’s going to take interviews and sight surveys and teams on the ground. My fear is that we will get these remains and once again say ‘Mission accomplished!’ And it’s not.”
Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. and North Korea had “productive and cooperative” that resulted in both sides agreeing to recommence operations to search for the remains.