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North Korea, US to discuss recovery of war dead

August 19, 2011

US Department of Defence says 8,031 US servicemen are still unaccounted for following the 1950-53 Korean War. - AFP (File Photo)

SEOUL: North Korea said Friday it would discuss with the United States the recovery of US soldiers killed during the Korean War after a six year suspension.

Its foreign ministry spokesman said the North had accepted a US proposal for talks on the resumption of the excavation of remains of American soldiers killed during the 1950-53 war.

“The US side, some time ago, sent an official letter to (North Korea) through an appropriate channel, requesting it to hold talks for the excavation of remains,” he said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea accepted the proposal and work was already under way to arrange talks between the two militaries, the spokesman said.

The US Department of Defence says 8,031 US servicemen are still unaccounted for following the war, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Joint US-North Korean search teams, in 33 missions from 1996-2005, recovered what were determined as likely to be the remains of 229 of them.

About 80 have been identified and returned to families for burial.

But cooperation ended in 2005 when Washington voiced concerns for the safety of its personnel as relations worsened over the North's nuclear programme.

North Korea reportedly earned millions of dollars for cooperation over the recovery of remains.

The North has previously used the issue to try to entice the United States into two-way talks on improving relations between the two Cold War enemies.

But Washington had rebuffed earlier offers by Pyongyang to reopen talks on the remains, saying the North must first return to six-nation talks on nuclear disarmament.

The North's move came after Washington offered $900,000 in emergency aid to the flood-hit country.

Last week North Korea said it would consider holding talks on temporary reunions between Korean-Americans and their relatives living in the isolated communist state.

The North's conciliatory gestures followed a meeting late last month between senior US and North Korean officials.