More than 50 boxes handed over by North Korea to the United States last week appear to hold human remains from the 1950-1953 Korean War and are likely American, according to an initial forensic analysis, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.
A U.S. military transport aircraft on Friday flew the remains from the North Korean city of Wonsan, a first step in implementing an agreement reached at a landmark summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in June.
“There is no reason to doubt that they do relate to Korean War losses,” John Byrd, director of analysis for the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), told reporters at Osan air base in South Korea, just before the remains were due to be flown to Hawaii for further analysis and identification.
More than 7,700 U.S. troops remain unaccounted for from the Korea War. About 5,300 were lost in what is now North Korea.
Byrd said a single identification “dog tag” was also handed over by the North Koreans. The soldier’s family had been notified, though it was not clear if his remains were among those found, Byrd said.
Experts say positively identifying the decades-old remains could take anywhere from days to decades.
Still, the initial “field forensic review” indicates that the “remains are what North Korea said they were”, Byrd said.
The North Koreans provided enough specifics about where each suspected body was found that U.S. officials have matched them to specific battles fought from 1950 to 1951, though not necessarily individuals, he said.