While most of the agreement between President Trump and Kim Jong Un was vague as the two met for only a few hours, perhaps the most concrete outcome of Tuesday’s summit is a commitment to recover the remains of U.S. military personnel missing in action and presumed dead from the Korean War.
In a joint statement signed by the leaders, the countries committed to the recovery of the remains and the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Washington and Pyongyang agreed to hold follow-up talks at the “earliest possible date” between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a relevant high North Korean official.
Nearly 7,800 U.S. troops remain unaccounted for from the 1950-53 war. About 5,300 were lost in North Korea.
It’s debatable whether North Korea’s commitment to recovering U.S. war remains could count as a major win for Washington when Pyongyang would be simply returning to what it had been doing for years. Between 1996 and 2005, joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 joint recovery operations and recovered 229 sets of American remains.
But efforts to recover and return the remains have been stalled for more than a decade because of the North’s development of nuclear weapons and U.S. claims that the safety of recovery teams it sent during the administration of President George W. Bush was not sufficiently guaranteed.
The sides are still technically at war, in 1953 the two sides agreed to an armistice not a peace treaty but perhaps this first summit meeting between Trump and Jong is a sign that the war may hopefully finally be over.
In the meantime, the North will cooperate with the recovery and return of US MIA remains and perhaps give some closure to the families of those missing.
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