A U.S. military plane left North Korea on Thursday carrying the remains of U.S. troops killed during the 1950-1953 Korean War, Yonhap reported and the White House confirmed. The repatriation takes place on the day when the two Koreas and the United States mark the 65th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that halted the Cold War conflict.
The Air Force C-17 aircraft departed from Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, about 70 kilometers south of Seoul, at 5:55 a.m. for Kalma Airport in the North's eastern coastal city of Wonsan, a flight expected to take about an hour.
The caskets coming out pic.twitter.com/pEDmHQKVM4— Adam Taylor (@mradamtaylor) July 27, 2018
According to the AP, the United Nations Command said some 55 cases of remains were retrieved.
President Trump touted the return as "a great moment for so many families" thanking Kim Jong Un.
The Remains of American Servicemen will soon be leaving North Korea and heading to the United States! After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un.
The Remains of American Servicemen will soon be leaving North Korea and heading to the United States! After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2018
Upon their return to Osan Air Base, the Defense POW (Prisoners of War)/MIA (Missing in Action) Accounting Agency is expected to check the remains and send them likely next month to Hawaii for forensic identification.
The repatriation of US soldier remains is part of the June 12 summit agreement between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on building new relations, making joint efforts to establish a "lasting and stable" peace regime, and pursuing the complete denuclearization of the peninsula. While the fighting in the Korean War lasted from 1950 until 1953, the war never formally ended, because a treaty was never signed.
According to SCMP, there about an estimated 5,300 Americans who did not return home from the conflict.
A repatriation ceremony is set to be held on Aug. 1.