US official: No reason to believe remains returned by North Korea are not American

US official: No reason to believe remains returned by North Korea are not American
© Getty Images

A U.S. official on Wednesday said there is no reason to believe the 55 boxes of human remains returned by North Korea are not American. 

John Byrd, the director of analysis for the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), told reporters that an initial forensic review indicates that the "remains are what North Korea said they were," according to Reuters.

"There is no reason to doubt that they do relate to Korean War losses," Byrd added.

The remains will undergo further genetic analyses in Hawaii, Reuters reported, adding that officials have predicted that the identification process could several years.


U.S. officials during the first analysis were able to match the bodies to specific Korean War battles in the 1950s, but they have not yet been able to identify individuals, Byrd said, according to the news service.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE said last week that returning the remains was a positive step by North Korea, but did not guarantee that they are American

"We have no indications that anything is amiss, but you don’t know and can’t confirm one way or the other,” he said. “That’s why we go through all the forensics.” 

Pyongyang last week returned 55 boxes of remains to the U.S. as part of the agreement struck between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President TrumpDonald TrumpRobert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' MORE during their summit in Singapore last month. 

North Korea only provided one military dog tag along with the boxes, according to The Associated Press.

There were an estimated 5,300 Americans who did not return home from the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 until 1953. The war never formally ended. 

Dozens of American and South Korean soldiers, as well as United Nations officials from countries that fought in the Korean War, conducted a commemorative ceremony on Wednesday before the remains were flown to Hawaii, Reuters reported.