Trump, Kim agree to bring Korean War remains back home

Matt Saintsing
June 12, 2018 - 10:45 am

Xinhua/Ministry of Communication and Information of Singapore

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President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un came together Tuesday and committed to recovering the war remains of American servicemembers killed in the Korean War. 

The agreement was one of four points that made it in to the final document signed by the two heads of state as the historic, first-of-its-kind summit came to a close in Singapore. 

Mr. Trump and Kim “commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified,” read the document, which was displayed at the signing ceremony. 

The document didn't provide a timeline or other specific details, but its a symbolic gesture-- if not a good start-- for veterans' families who have lobbied on the issue for decades. It also is a tangible win for Trump as the summit has yet to yield long-lasting denuclearization efforts by the North. 

This commitment comes a day after the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) sent a letter to the White House urging the president to raise the issue with Kim.

"We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that those who paid the ultimate price for freedom during the Korean War are finally returned home to their families,” wrote the organization's head, Keith Harman. 

“For the families of those who never returned, the passage of time does not heal their wounds,” the letter reads “For them, the days became weeks, and the weeks became months, then years, and now, sadly, decades.”

The letter was also sent to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

An estimated 5,300 American remains are thought to still be on North Korean soil. But efforts to bring them back home have largely led nowhere as tensions between the two countries have escalated over the North's nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile development. 

In a statement, Harman said he hopes, "this agreement will finally bring peace to the peninsula and help bring closure to thousands of families of missing American servicemen from the Korean War." 

"Now, the hard work to bring the initiative to fruition begins."

A total of 7,702 American troops still remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, according to the Defense POW/MIA agency. Between 1990 and 2005, joint U.S.-North Korean military search teams brought 229 sets of American remains home.  

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