Up to 200 sets of remains belonging to American servicemen are expected to be transferred from North Korea to the U.N. command in South Korea in the next few days, two U.S. defense officials confirmed to Fox News.
The officials say the returned remains will be shipped to Hawaii, where they will be examined by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for identification purposes. The number of remains expected to be transferred was first reported by CNN.
Word of the transfer comes one day after the Pentagon announced it was suspending joint military exercises with South Korea before the next major war game, Ulchi Freedom Guardian involving some 17,500 American troops and 50,000 South Korean forces scheduled for August.
Last week, President Trump told Fox News that North Korea will begin turning over remains to the U.S. following his summit meeting with dictator Kim Jong Un.
“They are already starting to produce the remains of these great young soldiers who were left in North Korea,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” Friday morning. “We’re getting the remains, and nobody thought that was possible.”
More than 7,800 Americans have been unaccounted for since the Korean War, which technically never has ended. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s website, North Korea has returned the remains of at least 3,200 Americans since the signing of the armistice suspending hostilities in 1953.
Most recently, joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 joint recovery operations between 1996 and 2005 and recovered 229 sets of American remains.
Washington officially broke off the program because it claimed the safety of its searchers was not guaranteed. Critics of the program also argued the North was using the deal to squeeze cash out of Washington, calling it “bones for bucks.” The total cost to the U.S. to carry out the joint missions was $19.5 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.