The United States successfully received the transfer of 55 sets of remains from North Korea on Friday.
North Korea handed over 55 transfer cases containing what are believed to be the remains of U.S. troops killed in the Korean War.
U.S. personnel carried the small cases one by one, draped with flags, from a U.S. military transport plane at Osan Air Base in South Korea, Reuters reported.
The return of the remains is one of the issues agreed upon between President Trump and Kim Jong Un at last month’s summit in Singapore, along with denuclearization and other issues.
A U.S. military transport plane landed at Kalma Airport in northeast North Korea, where officials received the remains. The plane then took a short flight to Osan Air Base in South Korea where officials will inspect the remain for the next several days. From there, they will travel to Hawaii for further testing and identification.
The repatriation ceremony took place outside the transport plane, with soldiers in dress uniforms carrying the cases. Flags bearing the United Nations insignia were draped over the cases, signaling the U.N. Command’s oversight of the repatriation process. Military officers looked on from beside flags of the U.S., U.N. and South Korea.
The transfer takes place on the 65th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice that ended the Korean War. The remains of more than 7,700 U.S. troops are still unaccounted for, of which 5,300 were estimated to be lost in North Korea.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “At his meeting with @POTUS, Chairman Kim made a commitment to repatriate the remains of American POW/MIAs. I’m pleased he is following through on that commitment,” accompanied by a photo of the transfer ceremony.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) July 27, 2018
A White House statement said: “We are encouraged by North Korea’s actions and the momentum for positive change.”
The transfer marks the first repatriation transfer in more than a decade. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson negotiated the return of six remains in 2007. However, a widescale effort to recover the remains was suspended in 2005 due to North Korea’s nuclear activities causing safety concerns for U.S. officials.
The White House said a formal repatriation ceremony will take place on Wednesday at Osan Air Base ahead of the remains’ return to the U.S.
President Trump spoke to the press on Friday and said: “At this moment, a plane is carrying the remains of some great fallen heroes from America back from the Korean War. They’re coming back to the United States.”
Trump said that Vice President Mike Pence will attend the repatriation ceremony to greet the families and the remains. He also thanked Kim Jong Un for “fulfilling his promise” to return the remains.
“These incredible American heroes will soon lay at rest on sacred American soil,” Trump said. “We honor the sacred memory of every incredible American patriot who fought and died in that war.”
Trump also tweeted: “The Remains of American Servicemen will soon be leaving North Korea and heading to the United States! After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un.”
The Remains of American Servicemen will soon be leaving North Korea and heading to the United States! After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2018
This transfer is expected to mark the first of several that return U.S. remains. Last month, reports said that North Korea was prepared to return up to 200 U.S. troops’ remains.