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N. Korea talks will focus on MIAs

WASHINGTON – After a six-year hiatus, the Pentagon has agreed to negotiate with North Korea on resuming an effort to recover remains of the estimated 5,500 U.S. service members unaccounted for from the Korean War.

In a brief announcement Monday, the Pentagon said the negotiations would begin today in Bangkok. It offered no explanation for seeking to resume a recovery operation that Washington suspended in May 2005.

The Pentagon statement said the talks will address a “stand-alone humanitarian matter” and are not linked to other issues, which include most prominently the North Korean nuclear program and U.S.-supported international sanctions aimed at stopping North Korean weapon proliferation.

The U.S. and North Korea have no formal diplomatic ties, and relations have been especially rocky in recent years. During a state visit to Washington last week by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, President Barack Obama had strong words for communist North Korea, saying that “if Pyongyang continues to ignore its international obligations it will invite even more pressure and isolation.”

Leading the U.S. delegation to Bangkok will be Robert J. Newberry, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW/MIA affairs.

U.S. veterans organizations have long advocated an aggressive U.S. effort to recover remains from the 1950-53 war. Many U.S. war dead were left behind when Chinese forces overran U.S. positions in North Korea in the fall of 1950.