SEOUL — A US military aircraft carrying the remains of US Korean War dead collected in North Korea arrived in the South on Friday, the 65th anniversary of the armistice that ended the fighting.
The return of the remains marks the partial fulfillment of an agreement reached between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their historic summit in Singapore last month.
After leaving the North Korean port city of Wonsan, the C-17 cargo plane landed at the Osan US Air Base in South Korea at around 0200 GMT, where live TV images showed American soldiers lined up for a ceremony.
More than 35,000 Americans were killed on the Korean Peninsula during the war, out of which around 7,700 are still considered missing, including 5,300 in North Korea alone, according to the Pentagon.
"Today’s actions represent a significant first step to recommence the repatriation of remains from North Korea and to resume field operations in North Korea to search for the estimated 5,300 Americans who have not yet returned home," the White House said in a statement.
"We are encouraged by North Korea’s actions and the momentum for positive change," the statement said, adding that a formal repatriation ceremony would be held at the Osan Air Base next week.
Between 1990 and 2005, 229 sets of remains from the North were repatriated, but those operations were suspended when ties deteriorated over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.
The remains flown to Osan on Friday are expected to be sent to Hawaii for forensic identification. — AFP