WASHINGTON - North Korea announced an agreement yesterday to discuss how the US could recover remains of American troops killed in the Korean War, the most significant sign of progress since US officials halted such work in 2005 amid growing tension over Pyongang’s nuclear program.
Roughly 8,000 US service members remain missing, with 5,500 of them believed to be buried in North Korea, according to the Pentagon.
The North’s state media quoted an unidentified foreign ministry official yesterday saying that Pyongyang had accepted the US proposal to talk and that preparations for discussion had begun.
Relatives of the missing soldiers reacted to the news with hope.
“The void that was created all those years ago never gets filled,’’ said Rick Downes, 63, whose father’s plane went down in North Korea when Downes was 3 years old. For decades, relatives like him have followed the ups and downs of North Korea’s turbulent diplomacy, with the chances of recovering their loved ones changing with each development.
“There’s some bitterness there,’’ said Downes, president of the Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs, “because of how people over time have politicized this as an issue.’’
Washington has been careful in calibrating its reengagement with Pyongyang, declining to resume broader multinational talks on the North’s nuclear disarmament without some sign of commitment.