Seoul, South Korea – North Korean officials did not show up at planned talks with the US Thursday to discuss returning the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War, according to a Yonhap report.
Returning the remains of the US troops who perished during the 1950-53 conflict was part of a deal signed by the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump during their landmark summit last month.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited Pyongyang last week to flesh out the denuclearisation deal, said a Pentagon team would meet with the North’s officials on or around Thursday at the inter-Korea border to discuss the repatriation.
A US official waited at the border truce village of Panmunjom Thursday but no North Korean official showed up, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said, citing a Seoul diplomatic source.
“The US wanted to have talks as early as July 12 but the North did not seem to be ready,” according to an unnamed Seoul official.
“Both the US and the North are still in discussion over when to meet,” the official was quoted as saying, adding that the US wanted to make a formal announcement soon.
Dozens of wooden coffins to carry the American remains have recently been brought to the southern side of the border, the report added.
The White House has hailed the summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore as a major breakthrough toward disarming the isolated, nuclear-armed North in exchange for easing of sanctions and other help with economic development.
Pompeo, who met with Kim’s key aide during his latest trip to Pyongyang, insisted the talks were making progress but as soon as he left, the North’s foreign ministry berated him over his “unilateral and gangster-like” demands.
But Trump tweeted Monday that he has “confidence” that Kim would honour the denuclearisation “contract” they signed at the summit and accused China — the North’s powerful neighbour and ally — of seeking to undermine the deal.