The United States military has moved 100 wooden coffins to the border between North and South Korea in preparation to receive the remains of fallen American soldiers from the Korean War of the mid-20th century, ABC reports. The remains of the American soldiers have been awaiting repatriation for nearly three-quarters of a century as tensions between the United States and North Korea have almost always been a preventative force against their eventual return.
Colonel Chad Carroll, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea, was also recorded as saying that 158 metal transfer cases had been transferred to an air force base located nearby Seoul, the South Korean capital and a city that basically runs alongside the inter-Korean border, only 35 miles away. Said metal transfer cases would presumably be used to transport the wooden coffins and the remains placed within them to home soil.
Part and parcel of the negotiations that most recently took place between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in their most recent peace summit held in Singapore earlier this month, the repatriation of American remains from the Korean War was a fixture offered up in addition to a pledge by Kim Jong-un to denuclearize his nation.
These preparations by American military forces indicate that the transfer of the remains may be imminent, despite no formal acknowledgment thus far of this fact. Carroll himself was cool to the idea of presenting any rigid timeline for the transfer, denying earlier reports by Yonhap news agency. Yonhap had reported that American military vehicles bearing over 200 coffins had planned to cross the inter-Korean border today, a charge that Carroll denied according to CTV News, stating that plans for the repatriation were “still preliminary”.
U.S. Forces Korea would follow up on Carroll’s statement earlier today, making plain the fact that they were simply preparing themselves for the presumed eventuality that they would be receiving the promised remains. Describing “100 temporary transit cases” as having been built in Seoul, then having been transferred to the Joint Security Area at the border to await further instruction, U.S. Forces Korea made it clear that all of these actions were part of a readiness strategy to “receive and transport remains in a dignified manner when we get the call to do so.”
This is not the first time that the United States and North Korea have worked together to repatriate American war dead from the Korean conflict, though it will be the single largest repatriation. From 1996 to 2005, joint operations between the two nations conducted by experienced search teams resulted in 229 sets of American remains being repatriated over the course of 33 operations.
Since then, efforts have been stalled nearly completely as relations between the United States and North Korea have grown colder, primarily due to an increased focus by North Korea on cultivating their nuclear weapons program against the express wishes of the American leadership and that of most nations across the world. As an additional deterrent to previous attempts during this time period, the U.S. claims that the search teams could not be provided with any adequate assurances of safety during this time as both nations grew diplomatically hostile.