WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Wednesday that it has suspended efforts to retrieve remains of U.S. forces still in North Korea from the Korean War, blaming silence from Pyongyang since the last Trump-Kim summit.
“We have reached the point where we can no longer effectively plan, coordinate, and conduct field operations in (North Korea) during this fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2019,” Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman, a spokesperson for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), said in a statement.
The DPAA is the Pentagon office charged with retrieving and identifying remains of U.S. service members from all conflicts.
The DPAA said there has been no contact with North Korea since February, when President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, for their second summit.
“We are assessing possible next steps in resuming communications” with North Korea “to plan for potential joint recovery operations to be scheduled during Fiscal Year 2020,” Hoffman said.
The silence on returning war remains is part of a larger cooling by North Korea with the U.S after the Hanoi summit. According to reports confirmed Monday by Pentagon officials, North Korean tested large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapon over the weekend. Such projectiles are not considered a threat to the United States.
After the first Trump-Kim summit in July 2018, North Korea repatriated 55 boxes of remains that same month. Four individuals have been identified from those remains, the DPAA said.
The U.S. conducted on-the-ground searches for remains in North Korea from 1996 to 2005. They ended because of political and military tensions on the Korean peninsula.
According to DPAA, of the more than 7,800 U.S. service personnel unaccounted for from the Korean War, about 5,300 of those soldiers were lost in North Korea.