Some Korean War remains obtained from North Korea have been identified as US service members, Secretary of Defense James Mattis confirmed Tuesday.
“We have identified a couple of the remains, the families for the remains, coming out of Korea,” Mattis told reporters Tuesday at the Pentagon. North Korea pledged to return the remains of US servicemen who had fallen during the Korean War at the June summit in Singapore between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un.
“It’s been good work done, they moved swiftly on a couple where they thought they had a better chance for a number of reasons, where the remains came from, and what background we had, and how much we had to work with,” Mattis said. “So there’s been already some closure for a couple of families that have waited many, many years for this.”
Mattis later confirmed that two sets of remains had been identified “right now,” but said “we’re working” on additional identifications.
North Korea returned 55 boxes of remains in July. Experts said the process of identifying them could take months or years, and it was unclear what was inside each box.
Mattis acknowledged that conversations continue with North Korea on the return of additional remains.
“That’s ongoing right now, those deliberations, consultations, all I can tell you is it’s ongoing right now,” Mattis said.
On Monday, the Department of Defense said that US Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Minihan, the chief of staff for the United Nations Command, met Friday with his North Korean counterpart “to discuss the repatriation of remains and the support for any potential future return of remains.”
Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters that United Nations Command “is in charge of the demilitarized zone and they did meet with their counterparts from North Korea to discuss the repatriation of remains and the support for any potential future return of remains.”
While Minihan is also the chief of staff for US Forces-Korea, Manning made it clear that he was acting in his UN capacity while attending the meeting.