The Pentagon has suspended its plans to recover any U.S. troops’ remains in North Korea, this after nuclear talks have come to a standstill and there has been a lack of communication on North Korea’s part.
“As a result, our efforts to communicate with the Korean People’s Army regarding the possible resumption of joint recovery operations for 2019 have been suspended,” said Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) spokesman Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman, Reuters reported Wednesday.
“We have reached the point where we can no longer effectively plan, coordinate and conduct field operations in [North Korea] during this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, 2019,” he added.
The Pentagon was looking to recover more U.S. troops’ remains this spring, but talks to do so or to make arrangements never took place, as North Korea never agreed to meet face-to-face to work out the details.
After President Donald Trump ad North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un held their first summit in Singapore last June, in 2018, North Korea agreed to return the remains of U.S. military personnel who were missing in action during the Korean War.
However, Trump and Kim’s second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, this past February did not end well, and diplomatic talks have stalled or made little progress across the board, including on the topic of denuclearization – especially in light of North Korea’s recent missile tests.
In July 2018, 55 boxes were transferred from North Korean to the U.S. in repatriation ceremonies. While two U.S. service members were identified through their dog tags that were in the remains, it could take years to identify any of the other troop remains.
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.
In a statement signed by both Trump and Kim during their historic first summit in Singapore, the two countries agreed to the “immediate repatriation” of those fallen service members who are already identified.
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.