The Pentagon has suspended efforts to retrieve additional remains of U.S. troops from North Korea, due to a lack of communication from Pyongyang, American officials said Wednesday.
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The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), the Pentagon’s office responsible for retrieving and identifying remains of U.S. service members, said on Wednesday that North Korea has not communicated with them since President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for their second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam in February.
“We have reached the point where we can no longer effectively plan, coordinate, and conduct field operations in [North Korea] during this fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2019,” said DPAA spokesperson Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman. “We are assessing possible next steps in resuming communications with [North Korea] to plan for potential joint recovery operations to be scheduled during Fiscal Year 2020.”
North Korea transferred 55 boxes of remains after Trump and Kim’s first summit in July 2018. So far, four individuals have been identified from those remains.
DPAA estimates that over 7,600 U.S. personnel still remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.
The suspension of transfers marks another step back in U.S. and North Korean diplomacy. Trump touted the transfer of remains as one of the major successes to come out of his talks with Kim, along with the suspension of missile testing. But last month, North Korea conducted a ground weapons test followed by the launch of short range projectiles into the Sea of Japan just last week.
….Fighting continues but the people of Afghanistan want peace in this never ending war. We will soon see if talks will be successful? North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S. No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2019
Pyongyang has yet to follow through with any concrete, verifiable steps to dismantle its nuclear program, despite a vague agreement between the two nations that they would commit to denuclearization.
Still, Trump continues to express optimism that he can strike a deal with Kim on denuclearization. After the regime launched projectiles on Friday, the president tweeted that Kim “fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it.”
Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2019
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.