Pentagon suspends efforts to retrieve remains of US troops from North Korea

North Korean officials haven't communicated since the Hanoi summit in February,

May 8, 2019, 12:19 PM

The Pentagon has suspended efforts to retrieve additional remains of U.S. troops from North Korea, due to a lack of communication from Pyongyang, American officials said Wednesday.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), the Pentagon's office responsible for retrieving and identifying remains of U.S. service members, said on Wednesday that North Korea has not communicated with them since President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for their second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam in February.

"We have reached the point where we can no longer effectively plan, coordinate, and conduct field operations in [North Korea] during this fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2019," said DPAA spokesperson Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman. "We are assessing possible next steps in resuming communications with [North Korea] to plan for potential joint recovery operations to be scheduled during Fiscal Year 2020."

North Korea transferred 55 boxes of remains after Trump and Kim's first summit in July 2018. So far, four individuals have been identified from those remains.

PHOTO: U.S. soldiers salute before vehicles carrying boxes containing remains believed to be of U.S. soldiers who died during the Korean War.
U.S. soldiers salute before vehicles carrying boxes containing remains believed to be of U.S. soldiers who died during the Korean War, after the plane transporting the remains arrived at Osan Air Base, south of Seoul, on July 27, 2018, flying from North Korea.
Kyodo News via Getty Images

DPAA estimates that over 7,600 U.S. personnel still remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.

The suspension of transfers marks another step back in U.S. and North Korean diplomacy. Trump touted the transfer of remains as one of the major successes to come out of his talks with Kim, along with the suspension of missile testing. But last month, North Korea conducted a ground weapons test followed by the launch of short range projectiles into the Sea of Japan just last week.

Pyongyang has yet to follow through with any concrete, verifiable steps to dismantle its nuclear program, despite a vague agreement between the two nations that they would commit to denuclearization.

Still, Trump continues to express optimism that he can strike a deal with Kim on denuclearization. After the regime launched projectiles on Friday, the president tweeted that Kim "fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it."

ABC News' Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

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