President Donald Trump thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Aug. 2 for keeping his promise to repatriate the remains of some 55 American soldiers killed in the 1950–1953 Korean War.
The long-awaited repatriation comes after Trump first negotiated the deal at a landmark Singapore summit between the two leaders on June 12. The United States formally welcomed home the remains at a ceremony on Aug 1.
“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!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I am not at all surprised that you took this kind action. Also, thank you for your nice letter – I look forward to seeing you soon!”
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. Also, thank you for your nice letter – l look forward to seeing you soon!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2018
The White House confirmed Trump had received a new letter from Kim but did not reveal its content.
“A letter to President Trump from Chairman Kim was received on August 1,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “The ongoing correspondence between the two leaders is aimed at following up on their meeting in Singapore and advancing the commitments made in the US-DPRK joint statement.”
Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at the repatriation ceremony inside Hawaii’s Hickam Air Force Base, said the move was a sign of goodwill from Kim, adding that the identification process would be completed in the near future.
“Today, they are known but to God,” said Pence, whose father fought in the Korean War. “But soon we will know their names and we will tell their stories of courage.”
“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.”
North Korea delivered only one identification tag among the 55 caskets sent home on July 27. It marks the beginning of a long process to identify all the remains. Still, the delivery rekindled hopes of continued denuclearization talks with North Korea.
More than 35,000 Americans died on the Korean Peninsula and 7,702 are still unaccounted for, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The day of the transfer coincided with the 65th anniversary of the 1953 armistice agreement that put a temporary stop to the war between the North and South. Technically, the two Koreas are still at war.
In his address, Pence said the remains are only the first batch sent to the United States. It comes after a report based on satellite images from July 20 and July 22 revealed that North Korea was dismantling an important satellite launch facility.
“But today is just a beginning, and our work will not be complete until all our fallen heroes are accounted for, and home,” Pence said. “We will see to it in the days ahead that these heroes will be the heroes who led the way to many more homecomings in the future.”
The U.S. military flew the remains from Osan Air Base in South Korea after they had undergone an initial field forensic review.
Results from the review indicate that the “remains are what North Korea said they were,” John Byrd, director of analysis for the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, told reporters at Osan.
Byrd said the process to fully identify the remains, now more than 60 years old, could take anywhere from days to decades.