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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — For the first time, U.S. remains recovery teams have crossed the Demilitarized Zone with equipment to search for servicemembers missing from the Korean War.

Pentagon officials also said that, for the first time since 1999, recovered remains will be returned across the DMZ at the end of each search operation. Previously, team members flew into the North to conduct operations, which began after lengthy negotiations in 1996.

“This year, the recovery work will be split between two sites for a schedule that will extend between April and October,” read a Pentagon news release. “Twenty-eight U.S. team members will join with their North Korean counterparts for each of these approximately 30-day operations.”

The sites have been identified as Unsan County and an area near the Chosin Reservoir, both sites of major Korean War battles that saw heavy losses of U.S. servicemembers. Five operations are scheduled, officials said.

There was no media coverage of the equipment as it crossed into North Korea on Monday, U.S. Forces Korea officials said Tuesday. However, repatriation ceremonies would be held at Yongsan Garrison for any remains.

Moving the supplies and equipment was made possible by negotiations between the North Koreans and the U.S. Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office this February, the release said.

Separately, the office announced a “historic meeting” between Russian and U.S. archivists to examine the issue of information about American POWs and servicemembers missing in action. The meetings are to take place this week at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Md.

U.S. officials “invited the Russians in 2003 to discuss technical areas important to the effort to locate materials in the Russian archives about unaccounted-for American servicemen,” officials said.

The conference will look at issues such as declassifying Russian political and military documents from World War II, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and the Cold War; U.S. experts say these documents could prove invaluable in determining the fate of missing Americans.

A small team of U.S. specialists is already working in Moscow to recover such documents, but officials hope this week’s conference will help smooth the process.

U.S. recovery teams have operated in North Korea for the past nine years, recovering more than 180 sets of remains in 27 separate operations, officials said. The Pentagon says more than 8,100 U.S. servicemen remain listed as missing in action from the Korean War.

More than 88,000 Americans are missing in action from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and Desert Storm, officials said.


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