Identifications of US war dead from Korea could take years, official says
A U.S. official on Wednesday disputed President Trump’s claim that North Korea had already sent back the remains of U.S. troops in recent weeks, and said it could take years for bone fragments to be identified.
Kelly McKeague, who leads an agency that locates remains of U.S. soldiers on foreign battlefields, told Reuters that it will be months before excavations can start in the search for remains in North Korea. It could be years before some of those remains can be identified, he added.
Trump repeatedly claimed following his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month that Pyongyang had agreed to return the remains of U.S. soldiers who died during the Korean War. In late June, he said the remains of 200 U.S. or allied service members had been returned.
“We have yet to see any specifics from that commitment,” McKeague told Reuters, however.
He added that members of his agency will attend a meeting Thursday where North Korean and United Nations officials are slated to talk. McKeague said that conversation could produce details on how to go about securing the remains of additional U.S. troops.
Reuters reported that the ground in North Korea is soft enough for excavation work from mid-March to late September, with rains impacting the ability to dig in some of those months.
Trump has touted his meeting last month with Kim as an overwhelming success. He has cited the return of U.S. remains, and claimed North Korea is “no longer a nuclear threat.”
Multiple reports in recent weeks have indicated North Korea is still adding to its nuclear arsenal, however.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang last week to meet with North Korean officials for the first time since the summit. He pushed back against North Korean claims that the U.S. was acting like a “gangster” in pressuring the country to denuclearize.