Remains returned from North Korea ‘consistent’ with being American and from the Korean War, Pentagon says

  • The 55 boxes North Korea handed over to the U.S. believed to contain the remains of Americans have reached a military laboratory in Hawaii for identification.
  • "[The North Koreans] were clear with us that they couldn't be sure with how many individuals were represented in each box," said Dr. John Byrd, director of analysis for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
  • President Donald Trump thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un via Twitter for the return of the remains.
Members of the United Nations Command Honor Guard move dignified transfer cases from one C-17 Globemaster III to another during a repatriation ceremony at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Aug. 1, 2018.
U.S. Air Force photo
Members of the United Nations Command Honor Guard move dignified transfer cases from one C-17 Globemaster III to another during a repatriation ceremony at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Aug. 1, 2018.

The Pentagon has begun reviewing the recently transferred remains that are believed to be those of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War.

Last week the North Korean government handed over what they claim are American remains in 55 boxes. The boxes, draped in United Nations flags, were then flown from the Korean Peninsula to a military laboratory in Hawaii for analysis and identification.

The repatriated remains mark the first tangible results to come from June's historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

On the ground to verify the transition of the remains was Dr. John Byrd who heads the analysis effort for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPAA, the Pentagon unit tasked with identifying the remains.

"The North Korean officials that we spoke to were very forthcoming and candid with us and a couple of things they told us was that these were remains believed to be American and from the Korean War," Byrd told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.

"They also, though, were clear with us that they couldn't be sure with how many individuals were represented in each box," Byrd added.

Kelly McKeague, director of the DPAA, was also on hand to brief reporters on the identification process.

"One [question] that none of us have been able to get a definitive answer to is how many they [North Koreans] possess," McKeague said in regard to the potential U.S. remains held in that country.

Byrd noted that each box was accompanied with a paragraph of text in Korean that included information such as dates and geographical locations. During Byrd's preliminary assessment he found the remains were "consistent" with being those of American and from the Korean War.

Meanwhile, Trump thanked the reclusive leader from the North via Twitter for the return of the remains.

"Thank you to Chairman Kim Jong Un for keeping your word & starting the process of sending home the remains of our great and beloved missing fallen," Trump tweeted.

Byrd explained that the process for identifying the remains could take months or a few years depending on their condition.

"If we have teeth, especially teeth with dental restorations, we will be immediately begin comparing those to dental records," he said noting that his team of scientists will be able to run searches against a well-built database.

Byrd added that the next step in this process is for all the remains to undergo DNA testing in the coming weeks.