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Vice President Mike Pence speaks in front of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. Behind Pence sits a flag that was used in the transfer of remains ceremony that saw the remains of 55 American fighters killed in the Korean War returned to the U.S.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks in front of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. Behind Pence sits a flag that was used in the transfer of remains ceremony that saw the remains of 55 American fighters killed in the Korean War returned to the U.S. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Vice President Mike Pence speaks in front of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. Behind Pence sits a flag that was used in the transfer of remains ceremony that saw the remains of 55 American fighters killed in the Korean War returned to the U.S.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks in front of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. Behind Pence sits a flag that was used in the transfer of remains ceremony that saw the remains of 55 American fighters killed in the Korean War returned to the U.S. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence's reflection can be seen in the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.
Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence's reflection can be seen in the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
A Marine on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, holds in front of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., a flag that was among those that covering 55 caskets that carried back to the U.S. remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean War.
A Marine on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, holds in front of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., a flag that was among those that covering 55 caskets that carried back to the U.S. remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean War. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to veterans in front of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to veterans in front of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Vice President Mike Pence at Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 as part of a flag presentation to the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation. The flag was among those that draped 55 cases that carried the remains of American soldiers back to American soil.
Vice President Mike Pence at Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 as part of a flag presentation to the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation. The flag was among those that draped 55 cases that carried the remains of American soldiers back to American soil. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that he hoped the 55 cases of Korean War remains returned last month would be a “vanguard of what’s to come,” as officials hinted at future negotiations for on-the-ground searches in North Korea for more missing American servicemembers.

“We look forward to further progress,” Pence said during a ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. “I can assure you we will continue to work diligently to achieve peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and will never relent in our effort to bring our missing fallen home.”

At the ceremony, Pence presented retired Col. Richard Dean with a flag that one month ago was draped over a casket of repatriated remains from North Korea. On Aug. 1, the remains were delivered to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, where the flag-draped caskets were unloaded from C-17 aircraft.

Returning the 55 cases of remains of fallen troops was the result of an agreement reached during a June 12 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. More than 7,600 American servicemembers remain missing from the war.

From the cases of remains, two American servicemen have already been identified, said Kelly McKeague, director of the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency, which is responsible for recovering America’s war dead. The names were not disclosed as of Thursday afternoon.

McKeague said the United States hopes to begin face-to-face negotiations in October about resuming on-the-ground searches in North Korea – an effort that has been stalled for more than a decade because of rising nuclear tensions.

The flag presented at the ceremony Thursday will be kept with the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation, the organization responsible for maintaining the site on the National Mall.

“It brightens the hearts of 7,686 missing-in-action families that their loved ones could possibly be coming home in the very near future,” said Dean, the organization’s vice chairman. “It is truly remarkable the events that have taken place in the past six months. For those families, the odds are better than the lottery that they will be fortunate to have closure after 65 years.”

wentling.nikki@stripes.com Twitter: @nikkiwentling

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