Skeletal remains believed to be those of a U.S. soldier killed during the Korean War have been found near a former battle site.
South Korea's Defense Ministry says the remains, recovered at Mount Supdaemi-san in Tabudong in southern Seoul, were sent to the U.S. Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii on May 31 for forensic tests and identification.
Just hours after Friday's announcement in South Korea about the discovery of the remains, negotiators for the U.S. and North Korea struck a deal to resume the joint effort to locate and recover the remains of thousands of American servicemen who remain unaccounted for from the war.
The agreement was struck on the third day of negotiations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between representatives of the Defense Department and the North Korean People's Liberation Army, U.S. officials said.
The first U.S. and North Korean joint search mission is scheduled for June 25, the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.
Friday's announcement from South Korea's Defense Ministry was made by Colonel Park In-young, who is in charge of the effort to recover the remains of war dead. Park says the American remains were found by South Korean soldiers searching for the remains of their colleagues missing in the war.
Tabudong, site of one of the most fierce battles in the 1950-53 Korean War, is near the Nakdong River used by the U.S.-led allied forces to protect the Pusan perimeter.
The search was part of South Korea's program to mark the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950.
About 150 sets of remains have been found in two months of recovery operations, which began in April. All but three sets of remains were confirmed to be those of South Koreans, according to Park.
Two sets of remains were classified as those of North Korean soldiers and reburied at a cemetery north of Seoul on Friday.
South Korean forensic experts tentatively concluded that a third set of remains must belong to an American soldier because of the shape of the skull and length of the bones.
American-made military items recovered with the remainsa spoon, combat boots, leggings, a poncho and C-ration cansalso suggest the bones are those of an American soldier.
Park said more American remains might be found as his ministry expands recovery operations to other parts of South Korea. It plans to dig in 29 former battlefields by 2003.
The Seoul government estimates the number of South Korean soldiers missing from the Korean War at 100,000.
The United States has been searching for the remains of missing American soldiers in North Korea since 1996. So far, 42 sets of believed remains of American soldiers have been found in the North.
In the Korean War, South Korea and a U.S.-led U.N. force fought communist North Korea and China, which were backed by the Soviet Union.
The Korean War left 5 million people dead, injured or missing. About 37,000 American soldiers died and 8,100 are listed as missing.
The United States keeps 37,000 troops in South Korea under a defense treaty.
© 2000, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
© 2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.