In a new sign of troubled relations with North Korea, the Pentagon said Wednesday it has suspended its efforts to arrange negotiations on recovering additional remains of U.S. service members killed in the North during the Korean War.
In a statement Wednesday, the Pentagon’s Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency said it has had no communication with North Korean authorities since the Hanoi summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February. That meeting focused on the North’s nuclear weapons and followed a June 2018 summit at which Kim committed to permitting a resumption of U.S. remains recovery, which had been suspended by the U.S. in 2005.
“As a result, our effort to communicate with the Korean People’s Army regarding the possible resumption of joint recovery operation for 2019 has been suspended,” the agency said. “We have reached the point where we can no longer effectively plan, coordinate, and conduct field operations in the DPRK during this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, 2019.”
The Pentagon agency had hoped to arrange for recovery operations this spring, but the North never agreed to face-to-face negotiations to work out details such as payments required for the provision of support services by the North Korean army.
Last summer, in line with the Trump-Kim summit in June, the North turned over 55 boxes of what it said were the remains of an undetermined number of U.S service members killed in the North during the 1950-53 war. Thus far, three American service members have been identified from those remains.
Since then, the Trump administration has made no discernable progress toward a deal on eliminating the North’s nuclear weapons. Although the remains recovery effort is technically separate from the nuclear talks, it appears to have become entangled in the broader disagreement between Washington and Pyongyang over nuclear weapons and other efforts to improve relations.