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Pentagon stops program to retrieve remains from Korean War after North Korea goes silent

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
Remains of U.S. troops from the Korean War were returned to the United States by North Korea last year in flag draped coffins. But the Pentagon program to get more remains stopped after North Korea stopped communicating. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikaley Kline/U.S. Air Force
Remains of U.S. troops from the Korean War were returned to the United States by North Korea last year in flag draped coffins. But the Pentagon program to get more remains stopped after North Korea stopped communicating. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikaley Kline/U.S. Air Force | License Photo

May 9 (UPI) -- Attempts by the Pentagon to retrieve remains of U.S. troops from North Korea stopped due to a lack of communication from Pyongyang, U.S. officials said.

North Korea has not communicated with the Pentagon since President Donald Trump's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which identifies remains of U.S. service members, has suspended the efforts.

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"We have reached the point where we can no longer effectively plan, coordinate and conduct field operations in [North Korea] during this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, 2019," department spokesman Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman said Wednesday.

"We are assessing possible next steps in resuming communications with [North Korea] to plan for potential joint recovery operations to be scheduled during fiscal year 2020," he said.

The stalemate comes as diplomats and others say they're seeing a pattern of canceled meetings and telephone calls being ignored.

In July 2018, after Trump's first visit, 55 boxes full of remains were transferred back to the United States. An estimated 7,600 U.S. personnel remain unaccounted for from the Korean War 65 years after the war ended.

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But the second meeting in Vietnam didn't go as well, with talks breaking down abruptly. An article in North Korea's Workers' Party paper Rodong Sinmun blamed the United States for the talks ending without an agreement.

"Those inside and outside North Korea who couldn't hope enough for good results at the second U.S-North Korea summit in Hanoi are unanimously holding the United States responsible for the end of the summit without an agreement while being unable to hide their regrets," the paper said.

This week, North Korea fired two short-range missiles over the eastern coast of the peninsula. The first one flew about 260 miles, while the second went about 170 miles. The provocation comes as U.S. Special Envoy to North Korea Stephen Biegun travels to South Korea.

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