North Korea fails to attend talks on repatriation of U.S. war dead

South Korean Marines storm a beach in the southeastern port of Pohang during joint drills with the US military last year

South Korean Marines storm a beach in the southeastern port of Pohang during joint drills with the US military last year

North Korean officials did not turn up to a Thursday meeting with the US military about repatriating the remains of American war dead, according to a USA official with knowledge of the situation.

The mystery was resolved Tuesday when the official news agency KCNA put out no fewer than four reports on his trip to far-flung Samjiyon county, on the border with China, a lot of them far more detailed than its usual accounts of his "field guidance" visits. McKeague said no new remains had been returned since the Trump-Kim talks.

The White House had said earlier Pompeo would meet with the leader, but the encounter did not materialise and the top United States diplomat only met with Kim Yong Chol.

The Washington Post cites a "U.S. official with knowledge of the situation" who told the newspaper that the USA negotiating team was ready at the border between the two Koreas on Thursday, but "it just didn't happen".

During Pompeo's recent trip, meant to negotiate the details of the nuclear agreement signed during the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, North Korea called denuclearization demands by the USA "gangster-like". Kim is reportedly eyeing Switzerland as a potential venue for a second meeting, with North Korean diplomats sent to Bern, Davos, and Geneva last week to scope out hotels and conference centers, Kyodo reported.

Trump also announced that the US would suspend "war games" with South Korea.

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The discussions have tentatively resulted in a scheduled discussion for Sunday.

North Korea's failure to show up to the meeting follows a tempestuous week in the ongoing denuclearization talks with Washington.

North Korean officials skipped planned talks on repatriating the remains of American war dead Thursday in the latest snub of a US administration eager to show progress on efforts to rid the communist state of nuclear weapons.

When President Donald Trump announced the USA would halt joint military drills with South Korea, he backed his controversial move by citing the "tremendous" costs of such exercises. As the war was fought on Korean soil, however, only North Korea has remains to return. Reports at press time indicate that those coffins remain on the border but have not been filled with the promised remains.

The Department of Defense estimates that North Korea is holding about 200 sets of remains from some 5,300 American military personnel believed missing in the country.

According to a South Korean newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, Trump's decision to give Kim the CD comes after a conversation the two leaders had over lunch during their summit in June.

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