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N. Korea, U.S. to resume talks on recovery of war dead next month

Sept. 23, 2011 - 09:33 By

SEOUL, Sept. 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korea and the United States will resume talks next month on recovering the remains of American troops killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, a South Korean official said Friday.

The move will follow a series of recent diplomatic efforts by South Korea and the U.S. to reopen the long-stalled six-nation talks on ending the North's nuclear weapons programs.

Last month, North Korea accepted a request by the U.S. for talks on resuming remains recovery for the American war dead.

Nearly 8,000 U.S. service members are listed as missing from the war and the remains of more than half of them are estimated to be buried in the communist nation.

"I learn that arrangements have been recently finalized between North Korea and the U.S. to resume their talks on excavating and repatriating remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean War," the official at Seoul's foreign ministry said on the condition of anonymity.

The official said the North Korea-U.S. talks might take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the two sides had held meetings on the issue before.

The U.S. has recovered more than 220 sets of remains since 1996, but it halted joint recovery efforts with North Korea in 2005, citing the safety and security concerns of its workers.

On Wednesday, the chief nuclear negotiators from the two Koreas held a second round of talks in Beijing and discussed terms for resuming the six-party talks, which also include China, Japan and Russia.

Although the Beijing meeting produced little progress, the two sides called it "constructive and useful."

Their first meeting in July prompted senior North Korean and U.S. diplomats to hold a rare meeting in New York.

After this week's inter-Korean talks, South Korean officials said that North Korea wants to hold a fresh round of bilateral meetings with the U.S. next month. 

The six-party talks, aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons programs in exchange for economic and political aid, have been dormant since Pyongyang quit them in April 2009 and conducted its second nuclear test a month later.

The North has long sought to improve relations with the U.S. and sign a peace treaty to formally end decades of enmity since the war, which ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.