A U.S. military plane brought back 55 cases of remains North Korea says are of U.S. service members killed in the Korean War more than six decades ago, the White House confirmed in a statement late Thursday.
“A U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft containing remains of fallen service members has departed Wonsan, North Korea,” the White House statement said. “It is accompanied by service members from United Nations Command Korea and technical experts from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The C-17 is transferring the remains to Osan Air Base (near Seoul), where a formal repatriation ceremony will be held on August 1.”
“It was a successful mission following extensive coordination,” said the United Nations Command and United States Forces Korea Commander General Vincent Brooks. “Now, we will prepare to honor our fallen before they continue on their journey home.”
The plane landed in South Korea Friday morning.
The South Korean news agency Yonhap had reported it learned from a South Korean diplomatic source that North Korea recently took two truckloads of wooden boxes from U.S. officials.
Friday marks the 65th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 war that split the communist North and the democratic South.
“The United States owes a profound debt of gratitude to those American service members who gave their lives in service to their country and we are working diligently to bring them home. It is a solemn obligation of the United States Government to ensure that the remains are handled with dignity and properly accounted for so their families receive them in an honorable manner,” the White House statement said.
The transfer begins to fulfill an agreement made last month between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump during their historic meeting in Singapore in June.Trump tweeted his thanks to Kim after the remains arrived in South Korea.
About 7,700 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing from the Korean War, and 5,300 of the remains are believed to still be in North Korea.
White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman and Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.