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Hopes rise for return of U.S. soldiers' remains after years of tensions Updated: 2018-07-12 06:59:24 KST

The first ever return of American troops killed in the North during the Korean War took place just a year after hostilities ceased in 1953.
As agreed, the opposing sides in 1954 exchanged the remains of soldiers they had found, which meant some 22-hundred Americans were laid to rest at home.

But it wasn't until 1990 that the repatriation of soldiers was officially brought up again.
In 1990, the repatriations resumed, as Pyongyang wanted to improve ties with Washington.
It sent the remains of five soldiers through the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom.
There have been more than 30 joint searches for U.S. troops left behind, but the last time any were repatriated was in 2007 as ties between Pyongyang and Washington deteriorated due to North Korea's growing nuclear threat.
Things got tense at times, for instance when the remains were found to include animal bones, something North Korea was accused of doing deliberately.

As of now, an estimated 635 sets of remains have been sent back, with 334 of them identified.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg, considering that America's Defense Department estimates the remains of some 53-hundred US servicemembers to be still in North Korea, nearly half of them believed to be near the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.

And now, after 11 years, hope has reemerged with a promise from North Korea to return as many as 200 sets of remains of America's fallen heroes, as a result of the first ever North Korea-U.S. summit.

In late June, the U.S. sent one hundred temporary wooden caskets to Panmunjom to the remains to be sent over, while separately, 158 metal coffins have been moved to the Osan Air Base in South Korea's Gyeonggi-do Province, where the remains are to be transferred later on.

The remains are then expected to be sent from South Korea to either Hawaii or Nebraska for identification.

It's unclear whether the remains will be returned after the talks on Thursday, but U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that could be the first step to improving ties, so there's a great deal of anticipation that North Korea and the U.S. could be able to officially start implementing the Joint Statement signed in Singapore last month.
Lee Ji-won, Arirang News.
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