Korean War GIs' remains due here
A U.S. delegation will visit North Korea, and then Hickam will receive the shipment
The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base will receive the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean War in what is now North Korea.
The North Korean government plans to turn over the remains this weekend to a bipartisan delegation led by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Anthony Principi, the former veterans affairs secretary under President Bush.
The remains will be delivered to the Hickam unit and DNA will be matched with data stored at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Md.
U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean War in what is now North Korea will come home next week.
The remains will be turned over this weekend by the North Korean government to a private, bipartisan delegation and then welcomed by an honor guard at Hickam Air Force Base next week. The delegation, working with the approval of the White House, is led by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president; and Anthony Principi, former veterans affairs secretary under President George Bush.
The U.S. government doesn't know how many sets of remains will be repatriated or where or when these servicemen were killed, Maj. Brian Desantis, spokesman for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base, said yesterday.
He said DNA extracted from the remains will be matched with data stored at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Md.
Desantis acknowledged that "the biggest challenge" will be to get as many family reference samples, which include personal information as well DNA samples.
He said the forensic laboratory at Hickam, considered one of the best in the world, continues to seek these samples from family members of servicemen listed as missing in action from the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
More than 8,100 U.S. servicemen are still listed as missing from the Korean War, in which more than 33,000 U.S. troops were killed after the fighting started in June 1950.
The bipartisan delegation will spend four days in North Korea at the invitation of the North Korean government to help recover remains of missing U.S. servicemen.
The Hickam forensic unit did not plan any recovery missions to North Korea this year because in 2005 such operations were suspended by the Pentagon because it believed that North Korea had created an unsafe environment for U.S. search teams.
Two years ago, the U.S. government halted a program that allowed Desantis' unit to excavate remains from North Korean battlefields under a cooperative program that began in 1996.
That program had led to the recovery of 220 soldiers.
The Associated Press reported that the bipartisan trip comes just before a crucial deadline in the international nuclear agreement North Korea made two months ago. In the February agreement, North Korea pledged that in return for energy and political concessions, it would close and seal its main nuclear plant by April 14 and also allow U.N. inspectors to certify the shutdown.