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(LEAD) U.S., N. Korea to meet Sunday over return of American troops' remains

All Headlines 05:22 July 13, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with details, background; CHANGES attribution)

WASHINGTON, July 12 (Yonhap) -- The United States and North Korea have agreed to hold talks Sunday to discuss the repatriation of American troops' remains from the 1950-53 Korean War, a State Department spokeswoman said.

Heather Nauert said in a statement that the North Koreans proposed the date Thursday after a meeting expected the same day failed to materialize.

"Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol agreed in his dialogue with Secretary Pompeo to have his team meet with an American team in Panmunjom on or around July 12th to move forward with the repatriation of American service members' remains," the spokeswoman said. "Mid day July 12th they contacted us and offered to meet on July 15th. We will be ready."

Panmunjom is a village on the inter-Korean border.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to the repatriation in his historic summit with U.S. President Donald Trump last month. And last weekend U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Pyongyang to follow up on that and other agreements, including North Korea's commitment to the "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula.

Pompeo said after meeting with Kim Yong-chol, a close aide to the leader, that their talks were "productive" but that a lot of work remained to be done.

About 200 sets of remains are expected to be returned through the inter-Korean border to the United Nations Command, which oversees the cease-fire that ended the Korean War.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier that the UNC would receive the remains, not the South Korean or U.S. militaries alone, because all 21 nations that fought under the U.N. flag alongside South Korea and the U.S. lost troops in the conflict.

There was widespread speculation that Pompeo would return with the remains following his visit to Pyongyang, but that did not happen.

Once the remains cross the inter-Korean border, they will be moved to the U.S. air base in Osan, south of Seoul, and then to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii for forensic identification.


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