Fifty-five wooden cases, draped with white and blue United Nations flags, carrying the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean War arrived Friday in South Korea on the 65th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement, the White House said in a news release.
A solemn honor guard greeted the fallen soldiers at the Osan Air Base outside Seoul, South Korea. U.S. service members methodically carried each small casket — one by one — to their awaiting vehicles. A formal repatriation ceremony will be held Aug. 1, the White House release said.
Earlier, a crew traveled aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft to Wonsan, North Korea, where they collected the soldiers' remains.
More than 36,000 Americans died during the three-year Korean War that began June 25, 1950, Time reported.
Why did North Korea return the remains?
Last month, President Donald Trump negotiated the return of the soldiers' remains during his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
"Today’s actions represent a significant first step to recommence the repatriation of remains from North Korea and to resume field operations in North Korea to search for the estimated 5,300 Americans who have not yet returned home," the White House release said.
What did Trump say?
"The Remains of American Servicemen will soon be leaving North Korea and heading to the United States!" the president tweeted late Thursday about the return of the remains. "After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un."
What else did the White House say?
"The United States owes a profound debt of gratitude to those American service members who gave their lives in service to their country and we are working diligently to bring them home. It is a solemn obligation of the United States Government to ensure that the remains are handled with dignity and properly accounted for so their families receive them in an honorable manner," the White House release said.
What will happen after the repatriation ceremony?
The military will transport the remains to a U.S. military lab in Hawaii where DNA analysis will determine their identities, Time reported.
The Department of Defense has paid more than $28 million to North Korea for help with the return of soldiers' remains since 1993, according to Time.
Between 1996 and 2005, the government paid the Kim regime around $20 million, or $86,000 per soldier for 230 remains, Time reported. It’s unclear what the U.S. is paying this time around.