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N. Korea threatens to stop preserving remains of U.S. soldiers

All Headlines 14:51 April 05, 2010

SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea threatened Monday to stop preserving the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, pressing Washington to resume its search regardless of a nuclear standoff between the two countries.

A joint excavation, which had been a source of hard currency for the impoverished North, came to a halt in 2005 due to tension over Pyongyang's nuclear arms ambitions. The U.S. estimates about 8,000 of its soldiers are buried in the North.

The two sides held talks in January about resuming the excavation project, but little progress was made.

"Though lots of U.S. remains are being dug out and scattered here and there in our country, our side will no longer be concerned about it," a North Korean army spokesperson said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The statement warned the U.S. will be "wholly responsible" if the remains of U.S. soldiers in North Korea are "washed off and lost."

North Korea has been expanding efforts this year to diversify its sources of income, pressing South Korea to resume lucrative cross-border tours to its scenic mountain on the east coast and launching a state development bank aimed at luring foreign capital.

The U.S. conducted 33 recovery missions in North Korea from 1996-2005, finding the remains of about 230 people believed to be American soldiers.

"We are very surprised at the U.S. which is turning away from the fact that its servicemen's remains are being spoiled and scattered here and there," the North said, arguing the U.S. has developed a "humanitarian issue into a political problem."

North Korea has yet to respond to a South Korean proposal to begin a joint excavation of remains of Korean soldiers missing from their fratricidal conflict, which ended in a truce.


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