Military honor guards carry the remains of American soldiers repatriated from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) during a repatriation ceremony after arriving to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Honolulu, Hawaii, Aug 1, 2018. (RONEN ZILBERMAN / AFP)
SEOUL – US President Donald Trump said Thursday he looked forward to meeting leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong-un soon and thanked him for sending the suspected remains of US soldiers killed in the 1950-1953 Korean War back to the United States.
"Thank you to Chairman Kim Jong Un for keeping your word & starting the process of sending home the remains of our great and beloved missing fallen! I am not at all surprised that you took this kind action," Trump wrote in a Twitter message.
The pledge to transfer war remains was seen as a goodwill gesture by Kim Jong-un at the Singapore summit and was the most concrete agreement reached by the two sides so far
"Also, thank you for your nice letter - I look forward to seeing you soon!", Trump said, without elaborating.
The pledge to return the remains of US soldiers was made during a landmark summit between Trump and Kim on June 12, 2018 in Singapore, where the DPRK committed to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Kim sent a letter to Trump in mid-July in which the DPRK leader said he hoped there would be a second meeting between the two but it was unclear if that was the "nice letter" to which Trump referred on Thursday.
Trump also took to Twitter earlier to praise an "incredibly beautiful ceremony" in Hawaii, where Vice President Mike Pence helped welcome the remains to the US.
The US said during a solemn ceremony on Wednesday the human remains presumably included Americans killed in the Korean War and thanked the DPRK for making good on its pledge to hand them over.
The pledge to transfer war remains was seen as a goodwill gesture by Kim at the Singapore summit and was the most concrete agreement reached by the two sides so far.
United States Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Honorable Carry Ceremony for the remains of American soldiers repatriated from the DPRK at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Honolulu, Hawaii, Aug 1, 2018. (RONEN ZILBERMAN / AFP)
"I know that President Trump is grateful that Chairman Kim has kept his word, and we see today this tangible progress in our efforts to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula," said Pence, whose father fought in the Korean War.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also praised Pyongyang's returning of the war remains as he headed to three Southeast Asian nations for a five-day visit starting Wednesday.
"Today, the remains of U.S. service members were repatriated to the US from the #DPRK," Pompeo tweeted. "Chairman Kim is fulfilling part of his commitment to @POTUS."
More than 7,700 US troops remain unaccounted for from the Korea War. About 5,300 were lost in what is now the DPRK.
Honor guards take part in a ceremony to return the remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean War and collected in the DPRK, at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek on Aug 1, 2018. (CHUNG SUNG-JUN / POOL / AFP)
Other countries under the command of the United Nations also lost troops that are still unaccounted for, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.
Experts say positively identifying the decades-old remains could take anywhere from days to decades.
Still, an initial field forensic review indicated the remains are what the DPRK said they were, John Byrd, director of analysis for the US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, told reporters at an air base in the Republic of Korea (ROK) before the remains were flown to Hawaii.
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