In a solemn ceremony at a military base in Hawaii on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence and Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of U.S. forces in Asia, presided over the formal repatriation of what Pyongyang says are 55 caskets carrying the remains of U.S. service members killed in North Korea during the Korean War. Forensic anthropologists and scientists at the base will now work to identify the remains.
"They were husbands and fathers, brothers and neighbors — long gone, but never lost to the memory of their loved ones," Pence said. "Today, our boys are coming home." He said President Trump was grateful that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un followed through on his promise, at least in this case, calling it "tangible progress in our efforts to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula." Trump also tweeted his own thanks:
Thank you to Chairman Kim Jong Un for keeping your word & starting the process of sending home the remains of our great and beloved missing fallen! I am not at all surprised that you took this kind action. Also, thank you for your nice letter - l look forward to seeing you soon!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2018
The Pentagon's POW/MIA Accounting Agency will use sophisticated DNA analysis but it "usually also relies on any items that may have been found with remains like uniforms, dog tags, and wedding rings to identify remains," The Associated Press says. "But North Korea only provided one dog tag with the 55 boxes it handed over last week." Also, in previous handovers, Pyongyang gave the U.S. "unidentifiable bones of many people and some animals," notes a skeptical Jonathan Chait at New York. "The good news, from Trump's standpoint, is that it will take years to definitively identify the remains. So Trump can keep bragging about how he got back the remains of our great heroes without the media being able to definitively assert that he has not." Peter Weber