When American officials showed up at the border village between North and South Korea on Thursday, they expected to meet with North Korean representatives to discuss the return of remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean War.
One problem — no North Korean officials showed up, The New York Times reported.
No-show, or miscommunication?
While the American officials clearly thought a meeting was scheduled, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had previously indicated that the details hadn’t been settled before he left North Korea on Saturday.
The Americans called North Korean representatives and scheduled a generals’ meeting between the two nations to take place Sunday.
What’s the background?
North Korea reportedly has the remains of about 5,300 United States soldiers who were killed during the Korean War, which ended with an armistice in 1953.
Some remains have been returned to the U.S. over the years, but very few since recovery efforts were mostly halted in 2005 as U.S.-North Korea relations worsened over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Six soldiers’ remains were returned in 2007, and one more in 2015.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to the “immediate repatriation” of remains that had already been identified (between 200 and 250 soldiers) during a June 12 meeting with President Donald Trump in Singapore.
Last month, Trump said North Korea had agreed to give back the remains of thousands of soldiers, and that the transfer had already begun, a claim Pompeo later corrected before a U.S. Senate committee.
“We got back our great fallen heroes, the remains sent back today, already 200 got sent back,” Trump said at a Minnesota rally last month.
Nuclear talks souring?
This latest incident comes shortly after Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang resulted in North Korea accusing Pompeo of making a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for nuclearization.”
Pompeo called the talks “productive,” although North Korea said it was disappointed with the emphasis on denuclearization with a lack of security guarantees.