No matter what else comes of the summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s dictator, one victory has been at least partially achieved. More of the Honored Dead from the Korean War were returned to American custody last night in a rather stunning ceremony unfolding on both sides of the DMZ. 55 containers of remains were surrendered and transferred from North Korea to Osan Air Base in South Korea, where a formal ceremony will take place in a few days. (NY Post)
North Korea has turned over the potential remains of US soldiers who have been missing since the Korean war — part of a commitment made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to President Trump.
A US Air Force plane carrying the remains landed at Osan Air Base in South Korea where a formal ceremony will be held on August 1, the White House said in a statement Thursday night.
Also on the plane were technical experts from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
The President confirmed the news on Twitter last night once the transfer was underway.
Beyond the importance of fulfilling our obligations to the Honored Dead, it’s worth noting that something exceptional took place last night which shouldn’t be overlooked. An American C-17 actually flew into North Korea and landed there. After picking up the precious cargo, it took off unmolested and flew to South Korea. The idea of something like this happening even six months ago would have been strictly in the realm of fiction. While we still can’t afford to trust North Korea’s diminutive dictator, it’s clearly a remarkable moment.
When you combine this event with the reports that Kim appears to be dismantling his primary missile test site, one might almost – almost – begin to dare to hope that the North Korean leader is serious about denuclearization and normalizing relations with the west. Of course, none of this does anything to address Kim’s countless crimes and a human rights record which would make Atilla the Hun a bit squeamish, but considering what a mess the Korean peninsula has been for well over half a century I suppose we should take whatever progress can be had. (You’ll excuse me if I continue to take it with a very large grain of salt, however.)
As to the Honored Dead, there is still a ways to go before they are at rest. The remains must be respectfully received at Osan and analyzed by experts to determine precisely how many individuals are included and who they are, based primarily on DNA tests. Some of them may still turn out to be allies and those countries will need to be brought into the loop. Then the families of the Americans can be informed and prepared for their arrival back in the United States where they can finally be laid to rest at Arlington.
A somber story, but still extremely welcome news. Many more of the MIA still need to be located, but this is at least a promising start.