SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States has requested talks with North Korea on ways to search for the remains of American troops killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, a South Korean media report said Tuesday, amid an easing of tensions on the peninsula.
Joint recovery efforts were halted in 2005 after Washington cited the uncertain environment created by the North’s nuclear program.
Washington’s request came barely a week after U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth met veteran North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan in New York. Both sides said the talks, the first such contact since 2009, had been constructive.
“The U.S. recently sent a letter requesting a meeting on resuming remains recovery in North Korea,” Major Carie Parker, spokeswoman at the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), told Yonhap News Agency in Washington.
“We have received no response from North Korean officials,” she added.
Another DPMO official said the U.S. has invited North Korean officials to the talks as early as next month, Yonhap reported.
The North first indicated it was open to restarting the talks, leading the U.S. to formally propose the meeting, according to the official.
Nearly 8,000 U.S. service members are listed as missing from the war, the remains of more than half of whom are estimated to be buried in the secretive state.
Tensions have eased on the peninsula after spiking to their highest level in years in 2010 when 50 South Koreans were killed in two attacks.
Following the recent U.S.-North Korean talks in New York, Pyongyang said it was willing to resume regional nuclear disarmament talks at an early date, without preconditions.
The so-called six-party talks, which also involve China, Japan and Russia, collapsed over two years ago shortly after the North tested a nuclear device and a long range missile.
The two Koreas’ nuclear envoys also met for the first time in two years late last month, raising hopes for a restart of the process that offers Pyongyang aid and diplomatic relations with Washington in return for scrapping its nuclear program.
U.S. officials have emphasized they are in no rush to restart the six-party talks, and South Korea’s top nuclear envoy said that it was unlikely the recent diplomatic activities would produce breakthroughs.
Reporting by Jeremy Laurence; Editing by Daniel Magnowski