The remains of American soliders killed on the northern side of the Korean Peninsula during the Korean war have been returned, after more than 60 years.
A U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft took off from Osan Air Base in South Korea early Friday morning bound for Wonsan, North Korea, and returned at about 11 a.m. with the remains on board.
The 55 caskets draped in UN flags were carried out of the plane and loaded onto vans by honor guards from UN Command.
Though not a formal ceremony, some 1-thousand servicemembers, U.S. officials and their families were at the site on Friday, to honor and show respect to the fallen heroes.
United States Forces Korea Commander General Vincent Brooks said that it was a successful mission following extensive coordination and that they will now prepare to honor the fallen before they're sent on their journey home.
In the next five days or so, a team of American forensic specialists will do an in-depth examination of the remains, looking for any identification like dog tags or uniforms.
An official repatriation ceremony will be held at the airbase on August 1st, just before the remains are flown to Hawaii for DNA identification, which will take months.
With this, the number of soldiers whose remains have been recovered from the North since the 1990s will be closer to 700, up from the 635 already confirmed.
White House released a statement saying that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has fulfilled part of the commitment he made to President Donald Trump and that the U.S. is encouraged by Pyongyang's actions and the momentum for positive change.
Washington also noted that the event represents a significant first step toward resuming both the repatriation of remains from North Korea and field operations to find the other 5-thousand still there.
President Trump also thanked the North Korean leader on Twitter, adding that after so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry also warmly welcomed the repatriation, and evaluated it as a meaningful step in building trust between North Korea and the U.S., and hoped that this would lead to work towards a settled peace on the Korean Peninsula..
The repatriation of remains is one of the points stipulated in the Joint Statement signed by Kim Jong-un and Trump in Singapore last month.
That North Korea is following through on that promise has given hope to many that Pyongyang and Washington will progress also on denuclearization and a security guarantee.
Lee Ji-won, Arirang News.