The US has been involved in the Korean peninsula for decades. The Korean War began in 1950 when the North, who were later backed by China and the USSR, invaded the South, and the violence ended with an armistice signed in 1953, creating the border between what are now known as North and South Korea. Since then, US troops have been stationed in South Korea to help maintain the peace between the two states. The US' policy of "containment", developed by President Truman and diplomat George Kennan (see the "Long Telegram"), led the US to support the South Koreans to combat the spread of communism. Thus began the escalating tensions between North Korea and America.
One important question remains. What happened to the fallen American soldiers during the Korean war?
33,651 American soldiers died in battle. Of this number, and thousands of others whose statuses are unknown, North Korea has only returned 340 soldiers' remains. The rest of the fallen's whereabouts are unknown. On Wednesday, North Korea offered closure for some of the families of these fallen heroes. 55 cases of American remains captured or killed during the Korean War were transported to the Osan Air Base in South Korea where they were being prepared to return to American soil. The cases were flown into Hawaii for testing to verify their identities. Officials at the testing laboratory confirmed the likelihood that the remains are those of Americans.
This is great news for US-North Korean relations. After the historic June 12 summit where President Trump met with Kim Jong-Un, there were doubts as to whether or not tensions would abate and real progress could be made. Kim Jong-Un honored the agreement made during the summit by returning the 55 cases of remains; it is the first step towards developing trust between the states. The fact that North Korea did not lie about the identity of the remains as well as providing accurate information about where they were found signifies a willingness to cooperate and potentially build a partnership with the US.
Now that North Korea has fulfilled at least one of its requirements from the June 12 joint statement, it may expect the US to reciprocate by extending a peace treaty sooner rather than later. Half of the items on the statement are now underway, making the next diplomatic moves incredibly important. Move too fast, and North Korea could end up with an advantage.
We are confident that President Trump will navigate this diplomatic territory successfully. He has done great work establishing positive diplomatic relations with North Korea thus far, and if he continues on this arduous but fruitful path, world history will change for the better.