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Allies mark Korean War anniversary as remains set to return home

2018/06/26 04:09

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WASHINGTON, June 25 (Yonhap) -- A solemn ceremony took place in Washington Monday to mark the 68th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, an annual event that carried special meaning as the remains of some of the fallen heroes are set to return home.

The ceremony drew some 200 people to the Korean War Veterans Memorial as the United States and North Korea are in talks to formally end the 1950-53 conflict that ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

In a historic summit earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed an agreement that called for establishing "new relations" between the former foes and the "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula.

The agreement also included North Korea's promise to repatriate the remains of some 200 American and possibly Allied soldiers that remain unaccounted for.

Paul Cunningham, president of the Korean War Veterans Association, delivers opening remarks at a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington on June 25, 2018. (Yonhap) Paul Cunningham, president of the Korean War Veterans Association, delivers opening remarks at a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington on June 25, 2018. (Yonhap)

"We are heartened that the talks have finally begun towards the normalization of relations ... in Korea, the countries of the North and South, and the denuclearization of the peninsula and the ultimate end of the United States' longest war," Paul Cunningham, new president of the Korean War Veterans Association, said in opening remarks. "But of equal importance, we are looking to the recovery of the remains of the 7,700 servicemen still unaccounted for."

   More than 36,000 U.S. troops were killed in the war. And the last time the U.S. retrieved remains from North Korea was in 2007, when former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson brought back six sets.

It's unclear when the new sets will return, but U.S. Forces Korea said over the weekend that it had moved 100 wooden coffins to the inter-Korean border to prepare for their delivery.

"Now in a rapidly changing security environment, we are anticipating another miracle -- the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula," South Korean Ambassador to Washington Cho Yoon-je said in opening remarks. "I am well aware that with such high expectations many are still concerned about the current developing situation. However, we promise to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula with the unshakable ROK-U.S. alliance and the support of the international community.

"I believe that success in this mission will be the highest respect that the Republic of Korea can pay to U.S. sacrifice," he said.

South Korean Ambassador to the United States Cho Yoon-je delivers opening remarks at a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington on June 25, 2018. (Yonhap) South Korean Ambassador to the United States Cho Yoon-je delivers opening remarks at a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington on June 25, 2018. (Yonhap)

Among the attendees were American and Korean veterans, retired Army Gen. Walter Sharp, who commanded the USFK from 2008 to 2011, and ambassadors from the 21 nations that fought under the United Nations flag alongside South Korea and the U.S.

A silent tribute was offered, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony.

Cunningham, 88, said he served as a radar repairman with the Air Force during the war. He now drives an Amanti built by South Korea's Kia.

"It is one of the finer cars that I have driven in the course of my lifetime, but when I left Korea in February of 1952 the last thing in my mind was that I would ever be driving a vehicle manufactured in this country because what I saw there was ashes and rubble," he told Yonhap. "It's very gratifying to us to see what's been made of the economy -- the 10th strongest economy in the world -- and that's very commendable."

  

This photo shows the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington on June 25, 2018. (Yonhap) This photo shows the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington on June 25, 2018. (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr

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