Editorial; New US-North Accord on MIAs
Following the reported agreement between the United States and North Korea on the recovery and repatriation of the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War (1950-1953), delegates of the two countries are scheduled to meet in Beijing this weekend for discussions on the details of retrieving the remains. It is notable that the forthcoming U.S.-North talks are based on new arrangements, under whose terms the recovered remains would be turned over to the U.S. authorities in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, excluding the United Nations Command from any role in the ceremonies.
The event would mark a significant shift in the long-running practice by which the North handed over the remains to the U.S.-led U.N. Command at the truce village of Panmunjom, signifying that the U.S. troops had participated in the Korean War as part of the U.N. forces. It thus appears that Washington has acceded to Pyongyang's persistent demands for direct bilateral contacts in dealing with issue, excluding the U.N. command.
At the same time, the North Korean demand could be part of its strategy to undermine the armistice agreement and conclude a direct peace treaty with the U.S. In fact, the North has so far taken a series of steps to try to nullify the 1953 Armistice Agreement signed between the U.N. Command and the North, along with its war ally China. On the grounds that South Korea was not one of the signatories of the armistice, the communist North has been adamant that Seoul should be excluded from participation in talks aimed at securing a final peace agreement.
From this standpoint, the recent U.S.' acceding to the North Korean demand marks the first official accommodation of Pyongyang's anti-armistice strategy, casting off its conventional insistence that the repatriation ceremonies should take place at Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone. This became clear when U.S. Defense Department spokesman Larry Greer quoted Robert Jones, in charge of issues pertaining to MIAs and POWs, as telling North Korean officials that the U.S. would no longer insist on U.N. Command involvement in repatriation.
In view of the reality of the situation, and humanitarian considerations in particular, the U.S. policy shift is justified and understandable. In actuality, the repatriation of the remains of the American servicemen is no more than a matter of procedure, there being little difference whether they are accepted by the U.S. or the U.N. Command, since all of the remains are of American troops. …