Caskets that the USA shipped to the border last month haven't been filled, despite Kim Jong Un's pledge during his June 12 summit with President Donald Trump to immediately repatriate identified remains.
The four-paragraph letter - an upbeat missive in which Kim voices hope in a "new future" and speaks of his "invariable trust" in Trump - is dated Jul 6, the day Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in North Korea for what turned out to be acrimonious talks with Kim's regime.
According to President Trump, returning the remains of USA troops was agreed upon during the Singapore summit.
"North Korea not showing up could be an expression of dissatisfaction toward the USA for making excessive demands in the high-level talks last week", Kyungnam University professor Kim Dong-yub said".
The Defense Department estimates there are up to 5,300 sets of USA service member remains still somewhere in North Korea.
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"I firmly believe that the strong will, honest efforts and unique approach of myself and Your Excellency Mr President aimed at opening up a new future between the DPRK and the USA will surely come to fruition", the North Korean leader wrote.
But readers soon pointed out that the letter didn't actually mention any action that had been taken, and only made vague promises about 'the future progress of taking practical actions'. Pyongyang has asked the UN Command Armistice Commission to upgrade the talks to a higher level to include a US general, South Korea's foreign ministry said.
But while improving relations and decreasing hostility has certainly been a benefit of Trump's diplomatic push on North Korea, it's been a means to the end of denuclearization.
Interested in North Korea?The discussions about returning Americans soldiers killed nearly 70 years ago was perhaps the most tangible outcome from Pompeo's trip, which analysts expected would at least secure the release of some remains.
On Monday, the president shared his confidence that the North Korean leader would live up to the agreement both leaders signed in Singapore.
North Korean officials did not attend a planned meeting with Americans to discuss the return of USA soldiers' remains, officials have said. "The U.S.is fatally mistaken if it went to the extent of regarding that [North Korea] would be compelled to accept, out of its patience, demands reflecting its gangster-like mindset".