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Pence receives Korean War remains in somber ceremony

Pence receives Korean War remains in somber ceremony

Two family members of Americans missing in action in North Korea during the Korean War, Diana Brown Sanfilippo and Rick Downes, also flew with the Vice President on Air Force Two for the event.

Caskets containing the remains of American servicemen from the Korean War handed over by North Korea arrive at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., August 1, 2018. But in that time, Duus said, the identification process has improved.

Each container was accompanied by one Marine, one sailor, one soldier and one airman. The troops carefully set each box on risers inside a hangar as Pence stood watching with his hand over his heart. North Korea has steadfastly argued its nuclear weapons are meant to neutralize alleged USA plans to attack it. Davidson saluted. Some of the invited guests wiped tears from their eyes during the procession.

But questions have deepened over Pyongyang's commitment after USA spy satellite material detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country's first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has welcomed the return of the 55 boxes but acknowledged it's not certain who is inside.

It's taken decades for the possibly American remains to be returned.

"Whosoever emerges from these aircraft, today begins a new season of hope for the families of our missing fallen", he said.

Bruce Bennett, a senior Rand Corporation researcher, said North Korea's recent moves are a way pressuring Washington for sanctions concessions. A US military plane made a rare trip into North Korea to retrieve the 55 cases.

Still, the initial field forensic review indicated the "remains are what North Korea said they were", Byrd said.

The Kaakimaka family provided DNA samples to the US military's Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency over a decade ago, hoping officials would be able to make a match.

The agency identifies remains of servicemen killed in past conflicts.

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Byrd told reporters that "there was a single dog tag (US soldier's identity tag) provided with the remains". When North Korea handed over 55 boxes of bones it claimed are the remains of America's soldiers, it provided only one military dog tag and no other information to help USA forensic analysts to determine identities.

Trump, who has faced criticism over the pace of progress since the June meeting, praised Kim for "keeping his word", and Vice-President Mike Pence met families when the remains arrived back in the U.S. at a ceremony in Hawaii.

Pompeo, at the Senate hearing last week, sought to assure lawmakers that the disarmament talks with North Korea remained on track and that the effort to dismantle the country's nuclear arsenal was just getting underway. Some of the remains may prove not to be American, but may instead belong to service members from other allied countries who participated in the war against North Korea and China. Trump thanked Kim for the return.

Kim Jong Un committed to try to work toward the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" during the summit in Singapore, but he agreed to no specific measures or timelines.

The repatriation is a breakthrough in a long-stalled USA effort to obtain war remains from North Korea.

The US will urge the worldwide community to keep up sanctions pressure against North Korea at a security forum in Singapore this week, as concerns mount that Pyongyang has made little progress towards denuclearization.

Many analysts and independent experts, however, see that dismantling as largely symbolic, since North Korea has now successfully launched ICBMs that use the kind of liquid-fueled engines tested at Sohae. But many experts say those are neither irrevocable nor serious steps that could show the country is honest about denuclearization.

USA officials also are eager to resume searches in North Korea for more remains, an effort that has been stalled for more than a decade due to rising nuclear tensions.

Officials say US spy agencies, citing evidence including recent satellite photos, have spotted signs that the North is building new intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to the Washington Post.

The four-kilometer wide DMZ along the 250-kilometer inter-Korean border is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world, guarded by thousands of troops, artillery and littered with landmines.

On June 12, President Trump traveled to a historic summit in Singapore with Kim Jong-Un of North Korea.


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