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(2nd LD) U.S. seeks talks with N. Korea on remains recovery

All Headlines 07:35 August 09, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES first paras with DPMO's confirmation of contact with N. Korea; CHANGES headline)
By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (Yonhap) -- The United States said Monday that it has requested talks with North Korea on ways to search for the remains of American troops killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

"The U.S. recently sent a letter requesting a meeting on resuming remains recovery in North Korea," Maj. Carie Parker, spokeswoman at the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), told Yonhap News Agency. The DPMO is under the wing of the Department of Defense.

"We have received no response from North Korean officials," she added.

Another DPMO official said earlier that the U.S. has invited North Korean officials to have the discussions as early as next month.

The North first indicated it was open to restarting the talks, leading the U.S. to formally propose the meeting, according to the official who requested anonymity.

He said an exact schedule and venue will depend on Pyongyang's response.

Nearly 8,000 U.S. service members are listed as missing from the war and the remains of more than half of them are estimated to be buried in the communist nation.

Joint recovery efforts between the Cold War foes came to a halt in 2005 after Washington took issue with the safety and security of its workers.

The move towards the resumption of the work came after the two sides had the first high-level talks on denuclearization and bilateral ties in 19 months in New York in late July.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang and Washington reportedly agreed to allow the exchange of letters between families separated by the war.

As many as 100,000 ethnic Koreans living in the U.S. have families in the North, according to unofficial data.

Such an exchange of correspondence, if realized, could pave the way for the temporary reunion of the families.

The State Department neither confirmed nor denied related media reports.

"I've seen press reports... I don't have any details," department spokesman Mark Toner said at a press briefing.

On possible humanitarian aid for North Korea, hit by recent floods, he said the U.S. is still weighing that option.

"I think we'd look into it and assess the need for it," he said.

Russia announced that it will deliver 50,000 tons of grain to the North.

Pyongyang said through its state news media that dozens of people were killed and thousands of homes and other buildings were destroyed in recent floods.


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