- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The United States will pay North Korea $2.1 million to conduct four searches this summer and fall for remains of American servicemen missing from the Korean War, the Pentagon said yesterday.

The deal was struck Saturday after three days of talks in Bangkok between North Korean Col. Gen. Li Chan-bok and an American delegation led by Jerry Jennings, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW-MIA affairs, said Mr. Jennings’ spokesman, Larry Greer.

The $2.1 million is reimbursement for services provided by the North Korean government, including the provision of aircraft for any medical evacuation of U.S. search personnel, Mr. Greer said.

The sides agreed that the Americans would conduct two searches, each for a month’s duration, at two sites: in the vicinity of the Chongchon River, north of Pyongyang, and in the Chosin Reservoir area, scene of some of the most savage fighting of the war in late November and early December 1950.

The first effort, which would include excavation and repatriation to the United States of any remains found, is to be conducted Aug. 23 to Sept. 23; the second, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 28.

The United States had wanted to get an earlier start, but talks on arrangements broke off after North Korea revealed to a State Department envoy last October that it has a nuclear-weapons program.

Several days after that revelation became public, North Korea accused the United States of pursuing a hostile policy that “seriously impedes the exhumation of remains of the war dead, including the investigation and confirmation of the burial places.”

More than 8,000 U.S. servicemen are listed as unaccounted for from the Korean War, which ended 50 years ago this month.

North Korea for the first time allowed U.S. forensic experts to search for remains in 1996. Since then, there have been 25 recovery operations on North Korean territory, resulting in the recovery of 178 sets of remains believed to be those of American servicemen. Of the 178, only 14 have been positively identified as American.

Last year, three recovery operations resulted in the recovery of 26 sets of remains. That compares with 45 recovered in 2001 and 65 in 2000.

Mr. Greer said that in addition to working out arrangements for excavations at battlefield sites, the American delegation in Bangkok repeated its request for access to four American servicemen who the Army says deserted their U.S. units in South Korea in the 1960s and are living in North Korea.

In the past, the North Koreans have said the four do not want to talk to U.S. authorities, and no agreement was reached during last week’s talks, Mr. Greer said.


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