North Korea will on Friday hand over the remains of an unspecified number of American soldiers killed in the Korean War, a report says.
Citing an unidentified diplomatic source, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said on Thursday that North Korea had accepted about 100 wooden coffins sent by the United States and was expected to transfer the remains on Friday.
The caskets had been kept in the so-called Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas since late last month.
The news agency said a US military transport plane was set to fly to an airfield in North Korea’s northeastern city of Wonsan to pick up the US soldiers’ remains and would — after an initial DNA analysis at the Osan air base in South Korea — fly to Hawaii.
The planned transfer would coincide with the 65th anniversary of the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, during which the US supported South Korea.
More than 36,500 American soldiers were killed in the war.
US military data show that about 7,700 US military personnel remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.
According to the Pentagon, North Korean officials have indicated in the past that they have the remains of as many as 200 US troops.
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 Singapore in June.
At the Singapore summit, Trump and Kim also agreed to “work toward denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.
Trump’s point-man on North Korea, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has held several rounds of negotiations — including about the remains of the US soldiers — with North Korean officials in Pyongyang since then.
Pompeo had said that the return of the remains of the US troops was one of the key issues on which the two sides had made progress this month.
But the overall negotiations, focused on the denuclearization of North Korea in return for the lifting of international sanctions on Pyongyang, have been bogged down in mutual recrimination.