YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. and North Korean representatives will meet next week in Thailand to negotiate next year’s remains recovery missions, officials said this weekend.

Radio Free Asia, the U.S.-funded radio network, reported that top officials from the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) want to build on the success of 2004’s five joint missions.

In an October interview with Stars and Stripes, JPAC commander Maj. Gen. W. Montague “Que” Winfield called this the “most successful year we’ve ever had.”

In the same interview, he laid out his priorities for negotiating the 2005 missions.

The top priority is for JPAC teams to get permission to search former North Korean POW camp sites, he said. “We have not been allowed to go there but we know where they were. And we know there are lots of remains there,” Winfield said.

Negotiations with the North Koreans — set to begin this year on Nov. 15 — often end with both sides giving concessions, he said. For example, this year North Korea allowed remains to be repatriated by land over the Demilitarized Zone for the first time. In return, the North Koreans demanded changes that gave the U.S. search teams less flexibility in movement.

Still, teams operating near Chosin Reservoir and in Unsan County north of Pyongyang recovered more than 40 sets of remains this year, Winfield said. In recent years, the negotiating teams have secured more access to former North Korean soldiers and other eyewitnesses who can help locate remains.

According to the Pentagon, some 8,100 Americans are listed as MIA from the Korean War.

Since 1996, the joint U.S.-North Korean recovery missions have found more than 200 sets of remains believed to be those of U.S. servicemembers.

JPAC teams operate in more than 50 countries. Not all were battle sites, but U.S. aircraft crashed or were shot down when flying over many of the areas.

Radio Free Asia reported that Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Jerry Jennings is to lead the U.S. negotiators next month in Thailand. Col. Gen. Ri Chan Bok, North Korean representative at the Joint Security Area on the DMZ, is to lead the North Korean team.

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