Defense

US identifies first troops from returned North Korea remains

The U.S. has identified two American troops among the boxes of human remains that were returned from North Korea earlier this year, Reuters reported Monday.

John Byrd, who is leading the effort to identify the remains for the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, said the two individuals' identities will be released in the coming days once their relatives are notified. 

The announcement marks the first breakthrough in identifying troop remains since North Korea sent 55 boxes of human remains to the U.S. as part of ongoing negotiations between the two countries.

Reuters reported that remains from the two identified troops are believed to have been recovered from a battle near the Chongchon River. One individual is believed to be African American, based on the remains.

Forensic anthropologists have been examining the remains at a facility on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Reuters reported. They have thus far analyzed DNA from about half of the boxes, with some remains in better condition than others.

The 55 caskets of presumed troop remains arrived in Hawaii in July. Vice President Pence spoke at the repatriation ceremony, where he praised the event as "tangible progress" in negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea.

Byrd told reporters following the event that "there is no reason to doubt that they do relate to Korean War losses" after a forensic review.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to return the troop remains as the U.S. continues to seek denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

While Trump initially declared that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat following a meeting with Kim in Singapore, reports have indicated that there has been little progress on that front in recent months, and Trump administration officials have acknowledged as much.

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