Thursday 20 September 2018
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2 months ago

U.S. remains returned by N. Korea could take days or decades to identify

WASHINGTON - 1 August 2018: When the remains of Americans handed over by North Korea arrive in Hawaii on Wednesday, the U.S. military will begin a painstaking identification process that experts said could take from three days to two decades to complete.

The 55 boxes, draped in the blue and white flag of the United Nations, are each small enough to be carried in one person s arms.

They bear not only the remains thought to be of missing servicemen from the 1950-53 Korean War, but also a message of good faith made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in June.

The remains within each box may not be those of a single person and are likely fragments of bones, said Paul Cole, an expert on recovery of soldiers missing in action and prisoners of war, who worked as a visiting scientific fellow at Hawaii s Central Identification Laboratory where the boxes will land.

The commingling of remains reflects the violent impacts to which human beings are subjected in war.

At the laboratory, work will be done to determine if the remains are human. Then experts will count the bones and come up with a minimum number of individuals that could be in the shipment.

Each bone, or fragment, offers a clue. The femur indicates height, the pelvis age, the face and skull national origin. The clavicle and teeth offer some of the best comparison to the personnel file the Department of Defense keeps of missing servicemen, said Cole, author of the book POW/MIA Accounting: Searching for America s Missing Servicemen in the Soviet Union.

SIX DECADES OF WAITING

When bones meet the size requirement, the lab will cut and send a piece to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, where it will be analyzed and compared to family reference samples.

If the bone is too small, DNA analysis cannot be done. Federal law prohibits the destruction of evidence in testing, and DNA analysis destroys t

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