Raising hopes, Trump says N. Korea to return US remains
It’s been more than a decade since North Korea turned over the remains of American troops missing from the Korean War. So, President Donald Trump’s suggestion Friday that Pyongyang has begun delivering remains to the U.S. raised the hopes of families who have sought closure for more than 60 years.
Still, they’ve been on this roller coaster before, so they are hedging their bets. And U.S. officials across the government quietly acknowledged that so far no remains have been turned over to the U.S. from the North since Trump’s historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
As of Friday, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency had not received any new remains, according to spokesman Chuck Pritchard. The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets from North Korea.
There are 7,697 U.S. troops still unaccounted for from the Korean War, and about 5,300 of those were lost in North Korea.
Speaking with Fox News on the North Lawn of the White House, Trump said, “They are already starting to produce the remains of these great young soldiers who were left in North Korea. We’re getting the remains, and nobody thought that was possible.”
Trump also appeared to exaggerate the number of those that could be retrieved from North Korea. He said that Kim is “giving us back the remains of probably 7,500 soldiers,” adding that the North Koreans “know where many of these bodies are.”
On Friday, Trump pushed back against those who criticized him for meeting Kim, asserting: “If you don’t agree to meet you know what you’re going to have? You’re going to have nuclear war.” But in a sign of how his unprecedented meeting with the North Korean leader could change hostile ties, he said that now he can call Kim on the phone. “I gave him a very direct number. He can now call me if he has any difficulty. I can call him,” Trump said.