US flags are placed at graves at the Arlington National Cemetery on May 24, 2018.
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images
June 20, 2018 2:50 AM EDT

Six decades after the Korean War, Washington expects the remains of 200 U.S. soldiers and allied service members to return from Pyongyang in the coming days.

While the exact date and location of the transfer has yet to be finalized, officials told CNN the Trump administration will be ready for the ceremony as soon as next week if North Korea moves on the arrangements that quickly.

More than 36,000 U.S. troops died in the war, including those listed as missing in action. A total of 7,697 personnel remain unaccounted for, 5,300 of whom were lost in North Korea, according to Defense Department estimates.

North Korea has indicated for some time that it holds the remains of as many as 200 American service members, though the identities of the personnel will have to be confirmed by military DNA testing.

In a press conference following his landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week, President Donald Trump indicated the remains would soon return. Kim, he said, “agreed to that so quickly.”

According to the Pentagon, “the commitment established within the Joint Statement between President Trump and Chairman Kim would repatriate these as was done in the early 1990s and would reinforce the humanitarian aspects of this mission.”

North Korean officials are expected to hand the remains over to U.N. representatives at the demilitarized zone, which demarcates the border between North and South Korea. The U.N. will turn them over to U.S. military personnel for a brief ceremony, before they are transferred to a military laboratory in Hawaii for DNA testing.

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Write to Laignee Barron at

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