North Korea threatens to abandon US MIA remains

Last Updated: Monday, April 5, 2010 - 12:04

Seoul: North Korea threatened on Monday to abandon a search for the remains of US soldiers who went missing during the 1950-53 Korean War, saying Washington would be to blame for the loss.

The statement is likely a move by the destitute North to win cash from Washington, which due to political reasons had suspended joint recovery projects that once brought cash to the reclusive state`s depleted coffers, experts said.

"Though lots of US remains are being dug out and scattered here and there in our country, our side will no longer be concerned about it," a North Korean Army spokesman was quoted as saying by the state`s official KCNA news agency.

In January, the United States rejected a North Korean proposal to reopen talks on finding the remains of US soldiers missing in action (MIA) from the 1950-53 war, saying Pyongyang must first return to negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear arms program.

"We are very surprised at the US which is turning away from the fact that its servicemen`s remains are being spoiled and scattered here and there in the DPRK (North Korea)," the North`s military official said.

The US State Department said roughly 8,100 of the country`s servicemen remain unaccounted for. In 33 missions to North Korea until recovery work was suspended in 2005 amid rising tensions over the North`s nuclear ambitions, more than 20 sets of remains had been identified.

The North`s announcement comes as it is facing pressure to end its year-long boycott of nuclear disarmament talks, where it can win aid to prop up its staggering economy in return for reducing the security threat it poses to the region.

UN sanctions imposed after the North`s nuclear test last year and a domestic financial policy blunder are widely believed to have deepened the state`s economic woes.

North Korea has boycotted the nuclear talks since late 2008, saying the forum was pointless as long as Washington harboured hostile intensions toward Pyongyang.

The North has not responded to calls from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for a joint repatriation of remains of Korean soldiers left on the other side of the peninsula in the war fought by the South and US-led UN troops against the North and China.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, April 5, 2010 - 12:04

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