North Korea and US agree new search for US war dead

File image of North Korean soldiers returning the remains of a US soldier in November 1993
Image caption The search for US Korean war dead stopped because of North Korea's nuclear ambitions

The United States has reached agreement with North Korea to resume searching for the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War after a six-year halt.

The US said searches would start again next year in an area north of the North Korean capital Pyongyang.

Recovery operations stopped amid tension over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Between 1996 and 2005, remains have been found of more than 200 Americans.

US teams are due to start recovery efforts next year in an area around 100km (60 miles) north of Pyongyang where more than 2,000 soldiers and marines are believed to have gone missing during the 1950-53 war, the US Department of Defense said.

The US insisted that accounting for missing soldiers is "a stand-alone humanitarian matter, not tied to any other issue between the two countries".

The department said it had concluded arrangements with North Korea that will "ensure the effectiveness and safety" of teams heading into the isolated and impoverished country.

Stalled talks

North Korea said last month it would restart talks, and officials met in the Thai capital Bangkok for three days.

The move comes amid some signs the two sides are looking to re-engage.

US and North Korean negotiators plan to meet in Geneva next week to discuss reviving stalled international talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programme.

The two sides last met in July, in New York, to discuss a resumption of the six-party talks, which also include South Korea, Japan, Russia and China.

The talks broke down in April 2009, just before Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test.

Just under 8,000 US service personnel remain classified as missing more than half a century after the Korean War, which ended in a truce.

But work was called off in 2005 as ties between the two nations deteriorated, with North Korea conducting its first nuclear test a year later.

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