North Korea has returned the suspected remains of more than 50 US soldiers killed during the Korean War, according to the White House, in the first step in implementing an agreement reached in a landmark summit in June.
A US Air Force transport plane flew the remains from Wonsan, a coastal city in North Korea, to the US-operated Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, near the South Korean capital of Seoul, the White House said on Friday.
Fifty-five servicemen were returned as part of the operation, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
A formal repatriation ceremony is expected to be held in Pyeongtaek on Wednesday, after which the remains will be flown to the US for forensic examination.
US President Donald Trump said the repatriation would be a “great moment for so many families” and thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The return of the remains was agreed at a landmark summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June.
Both leaders signed an agreement at the summit committing their respective countries to the recovery and repatriation of remains belonging to prisoners of war, or those missing in action, dating back to the Korean conflict.
Around 7,700 US soldiers are listed as missing from the war, with more than 5,000 of the remains believed to still be in North Korea.
North Korea also pledged to “work towards denuclearisation” as part of the agreement, in addition to making a shared commitment with the US to pursue better relations and build a “lasting and stable peace” on the Korean Peninsula.
Robert Kelly, an inter-Korean affairs analyst at South Korea’s Pusan National University, told Al Jazeera that agreeing on the return of remains allowed Trump to secure an immediate “deliverable” from the summit, which produced no timeline for denuclearisation.