North Korea Only Gave U.S. One Identification Tag for 55 Boxes of Remains

North Korea only provided one military identification tag with the 55 boxes of remains it returned to the U.S. last week.

The caskets, which are thought to contain the remains of U.S. soldiers who died during the Korean War in the 1950s, are now traveling from South Korea to Hawaii, where forensic experts will conduct a thorough analysis to identify the remains. CNN reported that the process of identifying remains can take years.

In 2011, Pyongyang claimed that the remains of a British pilot were sent, but it actually delivered the remains of a dead animal.

"There's no reason at this point to doubt that they do relate to Korean War losses," John Byrd, director of analysis for the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, told reporters at South Korea's Osan air base, where a repatriation ceremony was held on Wednesday. The initial "field forensic review" shows the "remains are what North Korea said they were," Byrd said.

Byrd noted authorities had reached out to the family of the soldier whose identifying dog tag was included, but officials could not yet confirm that any remains matched the service member's identity.

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U.S. General Vincent Brooks, commander of the United Nations Command, U.S. Forces Korea and Combined Forces Command, speaks during a repatriation ceremony for remains transferred by North Korea, at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on August 1. The U.S. said it only received one dog tag for 55 caskets, which North Korea says contain the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean war. Jung Yeon-je/Pool via REUTERS

Fighting in the Korean War took place from 1950 to 1953, but a peace treaty officially ending the conflict was never signed. In April, the leaders of North and South Korea met and agreed to work toward a permanent peace treaty that would end the war.

Over 36,000 U.S. service members died in the Korean War, and almost 7,700 U.S. troops who participated in the conflict are still missing. The Pentagon estimates that about 5,300 of the individuals listed as missing in action are on North Korean soil.

The remains recovered last week were the first received by the U.S. since 2005, when efforts to repatriate bodies stopped amid tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. President Donald Trump has touted the return of the remains as an important step in attempts to improve ties with North Korea.

"Today, [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] is fulfilling part of the commitment he made to the president to return our fallen American service members," the White House said in a statement last week. "We are encouraged by North Korea's actions and the momentum for positive change."

Sixteen other United Nations member countries fought with the U.S. during the war, and some of these countries are similarly awaiting the return of remains from North Korea.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week that the U.S. did not know whose remains were actually in the returned caskets. "We don't know who's in those boxes," he said, adding that some of the soldiers could actually belong to other countries who also fought in the Korean War. "They could go to Australia. They have missing, France has missing, Americans have. There's a whole lot of us. So, this is an international effort to bring closure for those families."

North Korea Only Gave U.S. One Identification Tag for 55 Boxes of Remains | World