The U.S. military has identified the first two American troops from 55 boxes of human remains from the 1950-53 Korean War that North Korea handed over in July, the agency leading the analysis said on Monday.
Mattis told Pentagon reporters that experts moved swiftly on analyzing those two sets of remains, as they thought they had a good chance of identifying them because of where they were located and other information.
"One of the reasons that we were able to identify them so quickly (was because their remains) were more complete than usual so it gave us more to look at and narrow down the identity with", John Byrd, director of scientific analysis at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said in comments carried by Reuters.
Richard Downes, whose father, Air Force Lt. Hal Downes, is among the Korean War missing, said this turnover of remains, having drawn worldwide attention, has the potential to put the US back on track to finding and eventually identifying many more.
Between 1996 and 2005, the US worked with North Korea and recovered around 400 caskets of remains, though Washington halted the cooperation in 2005 as it could not guarantee the safety of its personnel. Despite setbacks in the nuclear negotiations, North Korea has maintained its moratorium on weapons testing, has toned down its rhetoric, and attempted to downplay the threatening nature of its arsenal, as was evidenced by its decision not to feature ICBMs in its most recent military parade. They were welcomed home to the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam by Vice President Mike Pence, who described the event as "just a beginning" as work will not stop until all of the missing are fully accounted for.
He did not publicly identify them.
After the US military informs family members, it plans to announce their names in the coming days, the officials said.
Other tables included personal objects from soldiers that don't have any identification on them, including buttons, canteens and old boots.
The meeting took place at the border truce village of Panmunjom in the DMZ on Friday, the US-led United Nations Command Korea said in a statement.
Scientists say it is unclear whether some of the boxes contain the remains of more than one body.