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After North Korea’s no-show, talks are back on for return of US troops’ remains

Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Joint Security Area (JSA) looking into North Korea. (Travis Wise/Flickr)
July 13, 2018

The Department of State announced that the U.S. is prepared to meet with North Korean officials on Sunday to discuss the return of American troops’ remains.

Spokesperson Heather Nauert said: “Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol agreed in his dialogue with Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo to have his team meet with an American team in Panmunjom on or around July 12 to move forward with the repatriation of American service members’ remains,” according to Washington Examiner.

“Mid day July 12 they contacted us and offered to meet on July 15. We will be ready,” Nauert added.

The two nations previously arranged a meeting on July 12. However, when Department of Defense and United Nations officials arrived at the Demilitarized Zone, North Korean officials did not show up.

It’s unclear why the officials didn’t appear at the first scheduled meeting, which was considered the “earliest start of the working-level talks” on recovering U.S. remains. No reason was given, although media outlets have widely referred to it as a “snub.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that the meeting “could move by one day or two,” suggesting that the details of the meeting were not solidified before he left Pyongyang.

It was not the first time North Korean officials failed to show up to a prearranged meeting with the Trump Administration, however.

Before the Singapore summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un last month, North Korean officials also failed to show for a summit planning meeting.

Repatriating U.S. service members’ remains was one of the points Trump and Kim agreed upon at the summit.

Shortly after the summit, the U.S. moved approximately 100 wooden caskets to the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea in preparation for the repatriation. The caskets are expected to be placed in metal transfer cases for return to the U.S.

As many as 200 troops’ remains are expected to be returned to the U.S. None have been transferred into U.S. hands so far.

The failed meeting would’ve been the first since Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang last weekend ended with North Korea criticizing the U.S. for the “regrettable” and “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization.”

The remarks raised doubts on whether North Korea’s denuclearization is possible.

Despite the remarks, Pompeo referred to the meetings as “productive.”

He described the disarmament requests as a “unanimous decision by the [United Nations] Security Council on what needs to be achieved.”

“If the requests were gangster-like, then the whole world is a gangster,” Pompeo added.

President Trump tweeted: “I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed.”

Approximately 5,300 U.S. service members’ remains are believed to be missing in North Korea.

North Korean workers and U.S. military experts reportedly identified 220 remains, which they believe to be U.S. soldiers.