US Suspending Efforts to Recover Troop Remains in North Korea

Daily News Article   —   Posted on March 23, 2012

NOTE:  Ten years of search operations in North Korea that led to the recovery and identification of 92 troops was suspended in 2005, with the U.S. citing worries about the security of its personnel. That ended the only cooperation between the militaries of the two nations, which formally remain at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended with a cease-fire and armistice, not a formal peace treaty.

In this July 10, 1950 file photo, American GIs fire a 105 Howitzer gun in action against North Korean invaders somewhere in Korea. (AP Photo)

(by Matthew Pennington, WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States said Wednesday it is suspending efforts to recover remains of thousands of fallen service members in North Korea, the latest sign that a recent thaw in relations is over.

The U.S. was in the process of resuming the hunt for remains missing from the 1950-53 Korean War that had been on hold since 2005, the only form of cooperation between the two militaries.

But North Korea announced plans last week to launch a satellite into space by rocket – a step the U.S. says would violate a U.N. ban. That knocked back recent progress in negotiations on the North’s nuclear program, and has jeopardized a Feb. 29 agreement in which the U.S. was to provide food aid in exchange for a nuclear freeze.

The U.S. left open the door to resuming remains recovery if the situation improves.

North Korea says the rocket launch, intended to mark the centennial of the nation’s founder in mid-April, has peaceful aims. The U.S. and other countries suspect it would serve to test capabilities of a long-range missile. Pyongyang [the North Korean government] has also threatened a “sacred war” against rival South Korea, in response to recent U.S.-South Korean military drills.

The agreement on resuming the troop recovery operations was made last October, and the program was beginning this month. The U.S. had already sent equipment by ship, and an advance team had been due in the country this month. North Korea would have received millions in compensation this year for its support of the operations.

Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters that North Korea has not acted appropriately in recent days and weeks and “it’s important for them to return to the standards of behavior that the international community has called for.”

“When there are suggestions that they might launch ballistic missiles, when they make bellicose statements about South Korea, and engage in actions that could be construed as provocative, we think that it’s not the right time to undertake this effort,” he said.

He said at some point the U.S. hopes to restart the recovery effort.

More than 7,960 U.S. servicemen are unaccounted for from the Korean War, which ended without a formal peace treaty, leaving the adversaries in a state of war. Some 5,300 of the missing are believed to be in North Korea.

Pentagon spokeswoman Tara Rigler said North Korea had refused to take agreed steps, including permitting the U.S. advance team into the country, and had politicized the remains recovery operations by linking them to the recent U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

She said no U.S. personnel are currently on the ground in North Korea.

The announcement is the latest setback for family members of veterans of the conflict who have lobbied hard for a resumption of the recovery operations. Of the nearly 8,000 missing service members, the remains of just 192 have been recovered and identified so far, based on remains handed over by North Korea or retrieved between 1996-2005.

Associated Press writer Lolita Baldor contributed to this report.

(Written by the Associated Press).  Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Minneapolis Star Tribune. Visit the website at


1.  When was the Korean War fought?

2.  Why has the U.S. suspended its efforts to recover remains of thousands of fallen service members in North Korea?

3.  What had the U.S. promised to give North Korea in exchange for allowing our personnel into the country to search for our soldiers’ remains?

4.  What could cause the U.S. to resume its efforts to search for remains of our men?

5.  a) How many U.S. servicemen are unaccounted for from the Korean War?
b)  How many of the missing are believed to be in North Korea?

6.  Why do you think every American should request the government to make it top priority to account for every one of our service members?

7.  Do you think the Pentagon/U.S. government has responded properly to North Korea’s latest antics?

Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a daily email with answers.


  • The Korean War (June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953) was a war between the Republic of Korea (supported primarily by the U.S, with contributions from allied nations under the aegis of the United Nations) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (supported by the China, with military and material aid from the Soviet Union).
  • The Korean peninsula was ruled by the Empire of Japan from 1910 until the end of World War II. Following the surrender of the Empire of Japan in September 1945, American administrators divided the peninsula along the 38th parallel, with U.S. military forces occupying the southern half and Soviet military forces occupying the northern half.
  • The failure to hold free elections throughout the Korean Peninsula in 1948 deepened the division between the two sides; the North established a communist government, while the South established a capitalist one.
  • The 38th parallel increasingly became a political border between the two Korean states. Although reunification negotiations continued in the months preceding the war, tension intensified. Cross-border skirmishes and raids at the 38th Parallel persisted.
  • The situation escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. It was the first significant armed conflict of the Cold War.
  • In 1950 the Soviet Union boycotted the United Nations security council, in protest at representation of China by the Kuomintang/Republic of China government, which had taken refuge in Taiwan following defeat in the Chinese Civil War. In the absence of a dissenting voice from the Soviet Union, who could have vetoed it, USA and other countries passed a security council resolution authorizing military intervention in Korea.
  • The U.S. (which made up 88% of the foreign troops) and other members of the United Nations force (12% of foreign troops), came to the aid of South Korea in repelling the invasion, but within two months the defenders were pushed back to the Pusan perimeter, a small area in the south of the country, before the North Koreans were stopped.
  • A rapid U.N. counter-offensive then drove the North Koreans past the 38th Parallel and almost to the Yalu River, and it was then that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) entered the war on the side of North Korea.
  • The Chinese launched a counter-offensive that pushed the United Nations forces back across the 38th Parallel. The Soviet Union materially aided the North Korean and Chinese armies.
  • The active stage of the war ended on July 27, 1953, when the armistice agreement was signed. The agreement restored the border between North Korea and South Korea near the 38th Parallel and created the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a 2.5-mile wide buffer zone between the two Koreas. Minor outbreaks of fighting continue to the present day. (from wikipedia)


Visit the website for Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs:

Read about North and South Korea at the U.S. State Department website:

Visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial website at: