WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and North Korea have reached an agreement on resuming recovery of the remains of American soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The agreement came after three days of talks in Bangkok between U.S. and North Korean officials and coincides with a renewed push to revive negotiations with regional powers on disabling secretive North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
The Pentagon said in a statement Friday that the U.S. delegation was headed by Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Newberry and included officials from the State Department and U.S. military.
The recovery operations, the first since 2005, are expected to resume next year, the Pentagon said.
“Accounting for Americans missing in action is a stand-alone humanitarian matter, not tied to any other issue between the two countries,” the statement said.
Yet there has been growing speculation U.S. President Barack Obama, approaching the final year of his four-year term, may initiate talks with North Korea on curbing its nuclear ambitions and the remains recovery talks were seen as a hint at U.S. willingness to engage.
More than 7,900 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing from the Korean War, with some 5,500 estimated to be buried in the reclusive North. Joint recovery efforts were halted in May 2005 over concerns about the uncertain environment created by North Korea’s nuclear programs.
The North has long sought to sign a peace treaty with Washington to formally end decades of enmity since the war, which ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.
Writing by Missy Ryan; Editing by Doina Chiacu