North Korean officials reportedly did not show up Thursday at a scheduled meeting with U.S. officials to discuss returning the remains of American soldiers, and instead suggested talking with United Nations military leaders about the issue.
Yonhap News in South Korea reported that North Korea asked the United Nations Command to hold “general-level military talks” about returning the remains of American troops killed in the Korean War.
A source told Yonhap that North Korea “wants a U.S. general to appear at the table to quickly finalize the repatriation issue.”
If the U.S. agrees to the meeting, it would mark the first time North Korea has engaged in military talks with the United Nations military body since 2009.
Kelly McKeague, who leads an agency that locates remains of U.S. soldiers on foreign battlefields, said Wednesday that U.S. officials expected to meet with North Korean officials on Thursday to flesh details on how to go about securing the remains of additional U.S. troops.
McKeague told Reuters it will be months before excavations can start in the search for remains in North Korea. It could be years before some of those remains can be identified, he added.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-Russia ambassador: Trump has done more damage to NATO in months than Russia has in decades Trump takes credit for increased defense spending by NATO allies, but says ‘it isn’t nearly enough’ Trump questions how Russia probe can ‘proceed’ given FBI agent’s private comments MORE repeatedly claimed following his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month that Pyongyang had agreed to return the remains of U.S. soldiers who died during the Korean War. In late June, he said the remains of 200 U.S. or allied service members had been returned.
While Trump touted the summit as a sweeping success and declared North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, relations have been shakier in recent weeks.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang last week to meet with North Korean officials for the first time since the summit. He pushed back against North Korean claims that the U.S. was acting like a “gangster” in pressuring the country to denuclearize, saying North Korea has not pushed back in negotiations.