A U.S. military cargo plane landed at Osan Air Base south of Seoul Friday morning carrying 55 sets of MIA/POW remains, as the United Nations Command (UNC) marked the 65th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement with a ceremony.
55 individuals from mixed branches of the South Korean, Thai, and United States militaries under the United Nations Command (UNC) helped carry the 55 boxes of remains draped in pale blue UN flags from the Hercules cargo jet to six vans in a carefully orchestrated ceremony.
A welcoming ceremony for today’s operation, officially led by the UNC, saw hundreds of U.S. military service men and women line the street from the tarmac to a warehouse inside Osan Air Base, saluting the vans as they passed.
12,000 military members and their families stationed at Osan, as well as those from other U.S. military bases in South Korea, were invited to take part in the ceremony welcoming the cargo plane carrying the remains of soldiers killed in the Korean War.
A U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) official Thursday said, however, that there would be no large ceremony for the initial hand-over of remains, citing uncertainties over the condition of items given by the North Koreans.
The cargo plane landed at Wonsan’s Kalma Airport, DPRK early Friday morning, taking off around 1000 local time after loading the remains.
It landed at Osan an hour later.
Members of the U.S. military and their families began lining up on the tarmac and along the road inside the base just after 1000, as officials prepared to welcome the plane’s landing in ceremonial fashion.
“It was a successful mission following extensive coordination,” said United Nations Command (UNC) and United States Forces Korea (USFK) Commander General Vincent K. Brooks was quoted as having said in the statement. “Now, we will prepare to honor our fallen before they continue on their journey home.”
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed the news in comments on Twitter, thanking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for his role in the repatriation.
“The Remains of American Servicemen will soon be leaving North Korea and heading to the United States!” the President said.
“After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un.”
The return of the remains was a key clause of last month’s Singapore agreement between Kim and Trump, which saw the two countries “commit to recovering POW/MIA remains including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”
The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs also released a statement Friday expressing their support for the day’s events, calling the transfer of remains “significant progress” in ongoing negotiations and saying the country considers it “a humanitarian measure that could help to heal anguish of those killed in the Korean War and their bereaved families.”
South Korea will also, according to the statement, “continue consultations with the North Korean government to seek ways to carry out the excavation of remains of ROK soldiers killed in the Korean War and to bring them home to their families as soon as possible.”
A full honors ceremony led by USFK commander Vincent K. Brooks is set to take place next Wednesday at 1700 KST.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News
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