Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Pilot's Body Is Returned North Korea Still Holds Surviving Copter Pilot

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Pilot's Body Is Returned North Korea Still Holds Surviving Copter Pilot

Article excerpt

North Korea today handed over the body of a U.S. pilot who was killed when his helicopter went down in the communist country five days earlier, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said.

U.S. officials had no immediate confirmation.

Yonhap said the release of the body took place shortly after 10 a.m. today (7 p.m. Wednesday St. Louis time) at the truce village of Panmunjom, in the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.

The body of Chief Warrant Officer David Hilemon of Clarksville, Tenn., was accompanied by Rep. Bill Richardson, D-N.M.

Richardson coincidentally arrived in North Korea on Saturday, the same day that the U.S. Army OH-58C helicopter either was shot down or made an emergency landing. He helped negotiate the return of the body and was to accompany Hilemon's body to Seoul.

The surviving pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Hall of Brooksville, Fla., is still being held by North Korea pending the completion of its investigation into the incident. U.S. officials have expressed the hope that Hall could be released by Christmas.

North Korea said Wednesday through its official Korean Central News Agency that Hall was "now in good health." No contact was being allowed with him.

"What I've been told is that the Korean People's Army is going to keep him until their investigation is complete, and we're hoping that won't be long," said Jim Coles, a U.S. military spokesman in South Korea. "They said they're not going to give us any information on him or allow any contact in the meantime."

North Korea agreed to return Hilemon's body during a long meeting Wednesday with U.S. officials at Panmunjom, Coles said. Army generals led each delegation.

Coles said he had no details on whether North Korea made any demands in exchange for the return.

In Washington, Dee Dee Myers, the White House press secretary, said, "We certainly welcome this humanitarian move." She said the United States would continue to demand Hall's release "in time for the Christmas holiday. …

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