Last week, North Korea handed over 55 sets of remains from the Korean War to the United States, and a report on Wednesday revealed that just one set of dog tags was included with the 55 remains.
While it is remains to be seen if all the remains are of U.S. troops, North Korea claims that all of the remains are of U.S. soldiers. One official in charge of identifying the remains is confident that the remains are “likely to be American,” USA Today reported on Wednesday.
Lab Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Dr. John Byrd said the team conducted a two-day forensic review at the Osan Air Base in South Korea.
“The remains are what the DPRK officials said they were,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “They appear to be remains from the Korean War. They are likely to be American remains.”
The 55 cases of remains that were handed over from North Korean to US possession are “a great first step to bringing a bunch of Americans home” the Deputy Director overseeing the US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), Rear Admiral Jon Kreitz said to media at Osan Air Base. pic.twitter.com/8Ygx3mgDvK
— Will Ripley (@willripleyCNN) August 1, 2018
U.S. officials weren’t initially sure of what country the troops had belonged to.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters last week: “We don’t know who’s in those boxes.” Those doubts have likely been quelled after the review carried out by Byrd’s team.
A U.S. defense official said it could take months or years to establish the identities of the remains. Officials notified the family of the soldier identified in the dog tags included with the remains.
Along with the remains, U.S. officials also retrieved combat gear, such as helmets, boots and canteens. These items are said to support the indication that the remains are American.
“The remains are consistent with remains that we have recovered in North Korea through our own recovery efforts in the past,” Byrd said.
Last week, North Korea handed over the remains to U.S. custody at the Kalma Airport in northeast North Korea. The remains were flown on a U.S. military transport plane that landed just outside Seoul, where they were then unloaded onto vans for the forensic review.
On Wednesday, the U.N.-flag-draped cases were loaded back onto the military transport plane before taking off for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.
The remains will be greeted with an “honorable carry ceremony,” with families and Vice President Mike Pence in attendance.
The remains will then be transferred to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency lab, where teams will begin to analyze the remains to assess identities.
At the summit held between President Trump and Kim Jong Un in June, the two signed an agreement that included the return of “POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified,” the Associated Press had reported.
North Korea claims to have identified the remains of at least 200 U.S. troops.