North Korea to Allow MIA Hunt to Resume

Chris Green  |  2010-01-27 15:34
North Korea appears willing to allow the search for the remains of missing American service members on its soil to resume, according to Admiral Robert Willard, the serving Commander of U.S. Pacific Command.

"We're going to enter into discussions with (North Korea). That is what we know right now. They are willing to talk about it and we're willing to address the particulars with them," Admiral Willard told reporters at Camp H.M. Smith, the headquarters of U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.

"It's a complex problem, Admiral Willard is quoted in the Honolulu Advertiser as saying, We've been in (North Korea for recovery missions) before, and it appears that we're being invited to consider going back again. It's something that we'll take seriously and we'll enter into dialogue with them and find out where it will lead."

The U.S. undertook recovery missions on North Korean soil between 1996 and 2005, but was forced to cease them briefly in 2002 and again in 2005 on the back of a number of U.S. security concerns, not least a North Korean prohibition on certain types of communications equipment.

According to U.S. military statistics, there are 8,034 service members unaccounted for from the Korean War, of which approximately 5,000 are thought to be in North Korea. Between 1990 and 1994, North Korea returned 208 sets of remains, while the 1996 to 2005 U.S. military search yielded a further 220.

Speaking in an earlier interview with Stars and Stripes, the U.S. militarys own newspaper, Jay Silverstein, an anthropologist working with Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC), the organization responsible for retrieving fallen U.S. personnel from overseas, said that despite the political difficulties surrounding such missions, working on the ground with North Koreans is a very positive experience.

I found the North Koreans very pleasant to work with, Silverstein said in the interview, My experience was very positive. It gave me a lot of hope for the future that relations between the North and the South and the West and the rest of Asia will someday be improved.

I am always disappointed when politics interfere with human rights and bringing closure to families whose relatives died in Korea so long ago, he concluded.
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