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China, South Korea to negotiate return of Chinese soldier remains

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea returning remains of Chinese soldiers in March 2014. The two countries are to negotiate the repatriation of more remains after a DNA analysis, Seoul's defense ministry said Wednesday. File Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea Defense Media Agency
South Korea returning remains of Chinese soldiers in March 2014. The two countries are to negotiate the repatriation of more remains after a DNA analysis, Seoul's defense ministry said Wednesday. File Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea Defense Media Agency

Feb. 14 (UPI) -- China and South Korea are to negotiate the return of the remains of Chinese soldiers on Wednesday.

The discussion of the repatriation could strike a conciliatory tone between Beijing and Seoul at a time when friction is growing over the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system THAAD on the peninsula, Yonhap reported.

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The remains date back to the 1950-53 Korean War, when China deployed about 1 million troops to support North Korea.

More than 100,000 Chinese soldiers died during the conflict while clashing with U.S. and South Korea soldiers in the course of battle.

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According to Seoul's defense ministry, Jang Hak-myung, deputy director of armed forces control, will meet with Chinese official Li Guiguang.

The two sides are to discuss the scope of repatriation as well as a schedule for returning the remains to China.

"The remains of the Chinese soldiers are to be vetted through DNA analysis," the defense ministry said.

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The repatriation of Chinese remains has been taking place annually for the last three years.

In 2016, Seoul had said the "repatriation of remains has become a new opportunity to cleanse war-wrought scars and to take the friendship between South Korea and China one step further."

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The two countries had been enjoying friendlier ties, and Beijing had been taking steps toward tightening trade restrictions against North Korea, after Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test in January 2016.

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But discord has been growing since last July, when South Korea agreed to deploy the U.S. missile defense system THAAD to deter North Korea missile threats.

Beijing is suspected of taking retaliatory measures against South Korean companies and individuals because of the decision, making it harder for South Korean firms to sell goods or for performers to receive permission to hold concerts or make television appearances in China

A South Korean think tank has estimated China has taken a total of 43 retaliatory measures.

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