- The mission aims to recover the remains of missing U.S. veterans of the Korean War
- It is expected to be conducted this spring
- Such missions have been on hold since 2005 due to tensions between the U.S., North Korea
The United States will send a team to North Korea this year to search for the remains of missing U.S. veterans of the Korean War, the Defense Department announced Friday.
The search -- the first such mission in seven years -- will be conducted sometime this spring by members of the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command.
"We're always grateful for the opportunity to recover the remains of our fallen heroes from past wars," Pentagon spokesman George Little said. "And we are hopeful that this process will occur sooner rather than later. I don't have a specific time frame to give you, but this is something that is very important to us and we'll clearly focus on."
Beginning in 1996, North Korean and U.S. military teams conducted 33 joint recovery missions looking for remains inside North Korea. More than 225 sets of remains were located, and brought out of the reclusive country. But all that changed in 2005 when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suspended the work, saying that due to rising nuclear tensions at the time, he felt the safety of the U.S. teams could not be guaranteed.
Following talks between the two sides in October, officials agreed to resume the searches this year, according to Air Force Maj. Carie Parker, spokeswoman for the POW/Missing Personnel Office.
The mission, which will include both U.S. and North Korean military personnel, will search two areas of North Korea: Unsan County and near the Chosin/Jangjin reservoir, according to the Defense Department.
About 8,000 U.S. service members are listed as "unaccounted for" from the Korean War, the 1950-1953 conflict often referred to as the "forgotten war."