IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

North Korea agrees to talk to US about repatriating GI remains

N. Korea said Friday it had agreed to talks with the United States on repatriating remains of American service members killed in the 1950-53 Korean War.
/ Source: Reuters

North Korea said Friday it had agreed to talks with the United States on repatriating remains of American service members killed in the 1950-53 Korean War amid a diplomatic push to ease tensions on the peninsula.

The agreement follows a series of top-level meetings between Pyongyang, Seoul, Washington and Beijing that has raised hopes of a resumption of long-stalled talks on disabling the North's nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. military said last week that it had reached out to Pyongyang to restart joint recovery efforts of U.S. service members, which were halted in May 2005 over concerns about the uncertain environment created by the North's nuclear program.

A spokesman for the North's Foreign Ministry said Friday the North had accepted the U.S. proposal on humanitarian grounds.

"Work for talks between the militaries of the DPRK [North Korea] and the U.S. is now under way," state media quoted him as saying.

Nearly 8,000 U.S. service members are listed as missing in the war, with the remains of more than half estimated to be buried in North Korea.

The North's announcement came just after hours Washington said it had offered North Korea up to $900,000 in emergency flood assistance.

Joint resort dispute
Inter-Korean relations remain fraught, with the two sides' militaries on edge at a disputed border off the west coast.

Last week, they exchanged artillery fire at the maritime boundary, and this week the North reacted angrily to a joint U.S.-South Korean military drill in the area.

On the east coast, there is no end in sight to a three-year long dispute over operations at a joint tourist resort.

On Friday, four officials from the South Korea company Hyundai Asan traveled to the Mt. Kumgang resort in a bid to end the dispute, which started with the shooting of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean soldier in 2008.

Pyongyang has threatened to dispose of South Korean companies' assets at the resort, angry that Seoul has refused to reopen the complex, which had been lucrative source of hard currency for the isolated state.

The Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said there was no word on any breakthrough at the talks.

Less tense
However, tensions are lower compared with last year, when 50 South Koreans were killed in two separate attacks that Seoul blamed on the North, although Pyongyang denies responsibility for one and says it was provoked into the other.

The two Koreas are still technically at war, having signed only on a truce, not a peace treaty, to end the Korean War.

Last month, top diplomats from the two Koreas and the United States held what they called "constructive" bilateral talks, their first such interaction in about two years.

Following the talks, Pyongyang said it was willing to resume regional nuclear disarmament talks at an early date, without preconditions.

The so-called six-party talks, which also involve China, Japan and Russia, collapsed more than two years ago after the North tested a nuclear device and a long-range missile.