US officials were stood up by Korean officials at a planned meeting on the demilitarized zone to discuss the repatriation of the remains of US soldiers, Bloomberg reports.
South Korean officials later said the meeting would be rescheduled for July 15, but that was after U.S. negotiators arrived Thursday at the militarized border between the two Koreas and were kept waiting, the Yonhap News Agency reported, citing diplomatic officials it didn’t identify.
There was no explanation given by the North Koreans as to why they skipped the meeting.
The snub comes after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s unsuccessful trip to North Korea following the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un in June. Pompeo traveled to North Korea expecting to sit down with Un but instead met with a senior North Korea official. After that meeting, North Korea called the attitude of the Americans was “regrettable” and their demands “cancerous”.
CNN reports that a White House source believes the talks went “about as badly as it could have gone.”
“The North Koreans were just messing around, not serious about moving forward,” the source told CNN’s Michelle Kosinski, adding that Pompeo had been promised a meeting with Kim, and the fact that it failed to materialize sent a big message.
Trump has expressed an eagerness to tout the recovery of the war dead, telling Fox News that Kim was “giving us back the remains of probably 7,500 soldiers.” He also told supporters in Nevada that North Korea had already handed over 200 sets of remains. Pompeo was obliged to correct those claims, telling a U.S. Senate committee June 27 that no exchanges have been made.
While the details are unclear, a setback on talks over the remains wouldn’t bode well for broader negotiations about North Korea’s nuclear program. The discussions about returning Americans soldiers killed almost 70 years ago was perhaps the most tangible outcome from Pompeo’s trip, which analysts expected would at least secure the release of some remains.
While the return of the remains of US military personnel would be an accomplishment for President Trump to legitimately hold up as a political victory, it would do nothing to secure “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearlization” (CVID) which is the US government’s and the Trump administration’s policy on North Korea.
⊕ Defense Department estimates indicate that out of around 5,300 sets of US military personnel remains missing in North Korea, about 200 are being held by that nation.
⊕ 7,699 personnel are unaccounted for, including ground troops, pilots who were shot down, and those who died in POW camps.
⊕ From 1982 to the present, 459 set of remains have been accounted for and identified.
⊕ In Brussels today, both President Trump and Pompeo spoke confidently about the diplomatic process. Pompeo stated North Korea intends to denuclearize and Trump called his meeting with Un “amazing”.