North Korea provided only a single dog tag to help identify the 55 cases of remains that were given to US officials on Friday, a US defense official told CNN.
Given the absence of any additional information to accompany the remains, the official said it “will take many months to a few years to identity” them based of previous experiences with the identification process.
“Other than a single dog tag, the Korean People’s Army did not provide further information on where they recovered the remains or any other information,” the official said.
“Based upon previous experiences with this type of turnover from the DPRK, most of the remains will take many months to a few years to identify,” the official added using the official acronym for North Korea.
The presence of the single dog tag was first reported by the Associated Press.
Vice President Mike Pence will greet the remains of US service members returning to the US on Wednesday during a ceremony in Hawaii.
The remains will then be sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, where historians and scientists will work to help with identification.
The repatriation of the remains of American service members from the Korean War, which ended 65 years ago, was one of the four points listed in the joint statement President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un signed on June 12 during their historic meeting in Singapore.
“What we’re seeing here is an opportunity to give those families closure, to make certain that we continue to look for those remaining,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon Friday.
“We don’t know who’s in those boxes. As we discover it, they’ll be returned and they could — and they could go to Australia. They have missing, France has missing, Americans have — there’s a whole lot of us,” Mattis added, referencing the fact that service members from other nations in the UN coalition that fought in the Korean War are unaccounted for.