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Accounting for Korean War Missing

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 29, 1996 – Meetings with a North Korean delegation in Hawaii were constructive, but compensation remains a roadblock to recovering remains of U.S. service members lost during the Korean War.

James W. Wold also told the Korea Society a group devoted to improving U.S.South Korea relations recently the United States is more committed than ever to resolve the fate of more than 8,100 Americans unaccounted for from the Korean conflict.

"We believe the remains of many of these men can still be recovered from North Korea," the deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW/MIA affairs said. "We also believe North Korea can provide answers about men whose fates still remain unresolved."

Wold cited some progress: North Korea has returned more than 200 remains since 1990. Unfortunately, the United States has been able to identify only five of those remains. Wold said direct U.S. involvement in recovery operations in North Korea would significantly increase chances for identifications.

U.S. compensation to North Korea has become a major stumbling block to joint U.S.North Korean recovery operations. "Although we compensate foreign governments for fair and reasonable expenses associated with the recovery of remains, I would like to make it clear the U.S. government does not pay for remains," Wold said. "We believe North Koreas initial request for over $4 million for these remains is unreasonable compensation, particularly when we cannot verify the costs associated with these unilateral recoveries."

During the January meeting with a North Korean delegation, the U.S. delegation tried to resolve the compensation issue and to stress the need for joint recovery efforts.

"We offered a fair and reasonable amount of compensation for what we believe these [unilateral recovery] costs were," Wold said. "We also stressed to the North Koreans that they must develop a more realistic expectation for future compensation, assuming joint operations become a reality."

The North Koreans did not commit to joint operations or agree on the compensation issue, but Wold said that doesn't mean the talks failed. "To the contrary," he said, "they were a step in the right direction, and I believe the North Koreans have a much clearer view of our position on this matter."

Wold said the North Korean delegation leader expressed interest in future meetings.

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