Korea close to accord on war dead Joint effort conceived to find, return bodies

U.S., N.

January 15, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- After four days of intense talks that ended yesterday morning in Honolulu, the United States and North Korea came close to agreement on a joint mission to recover the remains of thousands of American servicemen killed in the Korean War, U.S. officials said.

The talks were the first of their kind since the war ended in 1953, and the fact that they took place at all was seen as a significant diplomatic development.

Though the United States and North Korea began discussing the recovery and repatriation of the lost soldiers in 1987, the meeting in Hawaii was the first in which a joint effort was seriously discussed.

The talks in Hawaii ended after two senior military officers in the seven-man North Korean delegation opposed a joint mission.

Despite the frustrating conclusion, "the door's open" for talks in the future, said a member of the U.S. delegation, Alan Liotta, deputy director for prisoners of war and troops missing in action for the Defense Department.

More than 8,100 U.S. and United Nations personnel, most of them American, are listed as missing from the Korean conflict, four times the number of U.S. soldiers still unaccounted in Vietnam. Most are believed to have been buried in graves at prison camps.

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