U.S., North Korea Meet Again to Discuss War Remains

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean senior ruling party official, depart following meetings at  in Pyongyang, North Korea on July 7.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean senior ruling party official, depart following meetings at in Pyongyang, North Korea on July 7.


Photo:

Andrew Harnik/Press Pool

WASHINGTON—Senior U.S. and North Korean officials met on Sunday to discuss steps to repatriate the remains of American soldiers who died in the Korean War, U.S. Secretary of State

Mike Pompeo

said in a statement.

North Korean leader

Kim Jong Un

promised to immediately repatriate the soldiers, as part of a deal signed with President

Donald Trump

in Singapore last month.

The State Department didn’t name the officials who took part in the meeting, but said it was the first general officer level talks since 2009. The meeting took place in Panmunjom, which is in the demilitarized zone that separates North Korea and South Korea. It was previously unclear if the meeting would go ahead as planned, after it didn’t take place on July 12 as expected.

“Today’s talks were productive and cooperative and resulted in firm commitments,” the U.S. statement said.

The Korean War was fought between 1950-1953.

It didn’t specify how many sets of remains the U.S. hopes to retrieve from North Korea. Mr. Trump told a rally in Minnesota last month that more than 200 sets of soldiers had been sent back as part of the deal with Mr. Kim. But so far, none have been returned, according to the Defense Department, which has readied coffins at the border to collect the remains. North Korea has previously sent back unrelated human remains and even animals instead of missing foreign soldiers.

The next steps will be discussed in working level meetings between the U.S. and North Korea, starting from Monday, according to the statement. During the meeting Sunday, both sides also agreed to restart joint field searches for the estimated 5,300 U.S. soldiers that never returned home after the Korean War.

The deal signed between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim at the Singapore summit included a four-part pledge to work toward peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It didn’t specify a time frame or key steps to be taken after the meeting.

Mr. Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang last month in an effort to fill out details, in the first high-level meeting since the summit between the two leaders. After the visit, the U.S. and North Korea offered conflicting versions of the meetings.

Mr. Pompeo said the talks had gone well and that progress had been made in many key areas, such as a timeline for denuclearization and concrete steps that North Korea could take to show commitment to the process.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry, however, issued a statement soon after his departure, accusing the secretary of “gangster-like” tactics and warning that it wouldn’t comply with unilateral demands for denuclearization.

The lengthy statement issued by Pyongyang this past weekend warned Washington against old methods that raise “cancerous” issues that “amplify distrust and risk of war.” Such an approach could shake North Korea’s “unwavering determination to denuclearize,” it said.

Despite the harsh language directed toward Mr. Pompeo, the statement said that North Korea still trusted Mr. Trump.

President Trump took the unusual step on Thursday of releasing a letter he received last week from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that hailed their summit meeting in Singapore as the “start of a meaningful journey” and called for “practical actions” on both sides.

The letter illustrated Mr. Kim’s apparent calculation that negotiations to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula can best be advanced by appealing directly to Mr. Trump rather than the U.S. president’s subordinates, who are now tasked with pressing the North Koreans for specific steps to disarm.

The letter was dated July 6, when Mr. Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang for two days of talks that were intended to flesh out the general understandings that were announced at the summit.

Write to Jessica Donati at [email protected]

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