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US moves 100 caskets to inter-Korean border for troops’ remains

A shot of the DMZ when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Minister of Defence Song Young-moo were there, October 2017. (DoD photo by US Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
June 25, 2018

The U.S. has moved 100 wooden caskets to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea in order to accept U.S. troops’ remains who have been missing since the Korean War. North Korea is said to be handing over the remains sometime “soon.”

U.S. Forces Korea tweeted Saturday that “100 wooden Temporary Transit Cases” were moved to the JSA, or Joint Security Area, also called the Truce Village of Panmunjom, part of the DMZ.

“We are preparing to receive and transport remains in a dignified manner when we get the call to do so,” U.S. Forces Korea tweeted.

There are reportedly as many as 200 troops’ remains ready to be returned to the United States from North Korea.

The cases will reportedly remain in Panmunjom for a few days before the remains are transferred from North Korea.

U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Col. Chad Carroll told Fox News that 158 metal transfer cases were also sent to a U.S. air base near Seoul, and that they would be used to transfer the remains back home.

After 65 years, the United States is preparing to receive the remains of up to 200 U.S. or Allied service members from North Korea who have been missing since the Korean War, and it has been said they could come home sometime “very soon.”

It was first reported that North Korea is readying to turn over the remains last week, and anonymous sources said that officials say “the timing of a ceremony is uncertain, but could be very soon.”

There has been no official announcement about the remains’ homecoming yet.

The remains are believed to be “some or all” of more than 200 service members that the North Koreans have kept since the war. The service members have been considered missing in action ever since.

Roughly 7,800 Americans remain unaccounted for from the 1950-1953 war. The Korean military conflict technically lasted from 1950 to 1953 but was ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

Of those 7,800 Americans, 5,300 are believed to have been lost in battles in North Korea or prisoner-of-war camps.

The exact number of remains and their identities will not be known until they are tested.

President Donald Trump said earlier this month that North Korea has begun returning the remains of missing U.S. troops from the Korean War.

Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un had earlier agreed to return the remains of U.S. military personnel who were missing in action during the Korean War.

In a statement signed by both Trump and Kim during the historic summit in Singapore, the two countries agreed to the “immediate repatriation” of those fallen service members who are already identified.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said just a few days before the summit that talks about returning the remains of the missing Americans and South Koreans from the war was a top priority of the summit.

The U.S. and North Korea agreed to have follow-up talks between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials.

Past efforts to recover U.S. war remains in North Korea ended abruptly more than a decade ago because of North Korea’s nuclear development and lack of guaranteeing the safety of American recovery teams sent into the country.

Between 1996 and 2005, 30 recovery missions conducted by joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams recovered 229 sets of American remains.

Earlier this year, the leaders of North and South Korea signed an agreement to officially end the Korean War after 65 years, which will be declared later this year, and to work to denuclearize and establish a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met in the Demilitarized Zone, in Panmunjom, and signed the “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula.”