North Korea on Friday returned the remains of what are believed to be U.S. servicemen killed during the Korean War, the White House said. A U.S military plane is making a rare trip from a U.S. base in South Korea to a coastal city in the North to retrieve the remains.
The handover follows through on a promise Kim Jong Un made to President Trump when the leaders met in June and is the first tangible result from the much-hyped summit.
President Trump tweeted late Thursday that the remains will soon be flown out of North Korea. "After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un," Mr. Trump tweeted.
The Remains of American Servicemen will soon be leaving North Korea and heading to the United States! After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2018
An Associated Press journalist at Osan Air Base outside of Seoul saw the plane land, and the White House earlier confirmed that a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft containing remains of fallen service members had departed Wonsan, North Korea, on its way to Osan. A formal repatriation ceremony will be held there August 1.
At Osan, U.S. servicemen and a military honor guard lined up on the tarmac to receive the remains, which were carried in boxes covered in blue United Nations flags.
Details of what specifically the U.S. had picked up were unclear, but reports said previously that Pyongyang would return about 55 sets of remains from the 1950-53 Korean War.
About 7,700 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing from the Korean War, and 5,300 of the remains are believed to still be in North Korea. The war killed millions, including 36,000 American soldiers.
From 1996 to 2005, joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains. The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.