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US, North Korea representatives meet to discuss return of US soldiers' remains

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A vehicle carrying UN flags arrives at a checkpoint on Togil Bridge leading to Panmunjom, at the entrance to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, on July 15, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Representatives of the United States and North Korea have met on the inter-Korean border to discuss the return of the remains of US soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, during which America supported South Korea.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing South Korean government sources, said negotiations began on Sunday at the border village of Panmunjom in the so-called Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.

Three vehicles of US representatives in South Korea, flying United Nations flags, were spotted heading to the border earlier in the day, Yonhap said.

A UN Command (UNC) general would represent the US side and his counterpart is expected to be a military commander stationed in the DMZ, the news agency said.

There were no reports from the North Korean side about the meeting.

Vehicles carrying UN flags arrive at a checkpoint on Togil Bridge leading to Panmunjom, at the entrance to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, July 15, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The US representatives brought some 100 wooden coffins into the DMZ last month, to be used to transport the remains, according to Yonhap.

The repatriation of the remains of the US soldiers was reportedly one of the agreements reached during a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June in Singapore.

At the Singapore summit, Trump and Kim also agreed to “work toward denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump’s point-man on negotiations with North Korea, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has held several rounds of negotiations in Pyongyang with North Korean officials since then. The top US diplomat had hoped to “fill in” details on denuclearization and recover the remains of US forces in his talks in Pyongyang.

Pompeo had claimed that the return of remains of the US troops was one of the key issues on which the two sides had made progress this month.

The North, however, complained of Pompeo’s “gangster-like” demands on denuclearization at the time.

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Pyongyang slams Washington's 'rapacious demands' in talks

Pompeo initially said the two sides had agreed to hold talks on the remains of the US soldiers on Thursday, but no meeting was held then.

North Korea then proposed meeting US military officials on Sunday, US and South Korean officials have said.

Meanwhile, analysts believe negotiations regarding the dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal will be a lengthy process.

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