Pentagon halts efforts to recover war remains from North Korea as talks stall

By Emily Tillett

/ CBS News

Concern about North Korea missile test

Following stalled talks with the North Koreans after two summits failed to produce any tangible agreements on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the Pentagon has announced it is suspending the recovery operations of war remains with North Korea.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Pentagon's Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) said officials from the North "have not communicated with DPAA since the Hanoi Summit."

"We have reached the point where we can no longer effectively plan, coordinate, and conduct field operations in the DPRK," the Pentagon said, referring to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

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Following President Trump's first summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year, Vice President Mike Pence accepted the remains of presumed U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War at a ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. The remains, including 55 boxes of bones North Korea claimed were the remnants of America's fallen soldiers, were returned from North Korea, one of Mr. Trump's requests of Kim.

During that somber ceremony, Pence noted the return of war remains was a step toward "tangible progress" in the U.S.' work towards achieving peace with the North Korean regime.

"Our work will not be complete until all of our fallen heroes are accounted for and home," he said at the time.

However, talks between the U.S. and North Korea have since gone cold after the two countries failed to reach an agreement during their Vietnam summit. Mr. Trump later explained that the two leaders didn't see eye to eye on sanctions and nuclear facilities.

North Korea, meanwhile, has since showed signs of resuming its nuclear ambitions after it launched several short-range missiles which landed in the Sea of Japan, according to the South Korean government. The White House said it was monitoring the situation "as necessary."

On Wednesday, the Defense Department said it would continue to look for ways to open channels of communication with North Korea to resume recovery operations sometime next year.

The Korean War, which took place from 1950 to 1953, killed 36,000 American soldiers, and about 7,700 are still considered missing.

David Martin contributed to this report.

First published on May 8, 2019 / 2:52 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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