Dutch veterans urge return of five killed in Korean War

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Dutch veterans Wednesday urged Prime Minister Mark Rutte to help trace five soldiers killed in the Korean War, after Pyongyang returned 55 cases of remains of US servicemen to the United States.

North Korea last week repatriated the remains of US troops still missing from the conflict in line with an agreement between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their summit in Singapore in June.

An association of Dutch veterans known as VOKS is now hoping their five missing countrymen could also be found.

According to Dutch media, the Netherlands sent 4,700 soldiers to fight in the 1950-1953 conflict, of which 122 died.

In a letter sent to Rutte, the veterans have urged him to contact the regime in Pyongyang in order to start the necessary steps to help identify them.

"Only then will the families finally be able to say goodbye to their loved ones in a dignified manner," said the letter, a copy of which was sent to AFP.

The group is also hoping that Washington will take into account that Dutch troops "were stationed with the American 2nd Infantry Division" and they "wore American uniforms", said Paul Gommers, president of the VOKS.

"It is possible that some of the remains of our men are also among the 55" cases sent back to the United States, he told the daily Algemeen Dagblad, adding he hoped DNA tests would be able to establish their identities.

The process of identification could take years but John Byrd, director of scientific analysis at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), said preliminary findings suggested the remains are likely to be American.

Some 7,700 US troops are still missing from the conflict.

Three of the five missing Dutch soldiers disappeared without trace during the war, one was killed on the battlefield and the fifth was captured by North Korean troops and died in captivity.

If they are traced, the veterans would like to see their remains buried at the UN cemetery in Busan, in South Korea, where 117 other Dutch soldiers have been laid to rest.

Rutte said he understood the veterans' request, and one of his advisors will speak with the association to learn more, the Dutch news agency ANP said.

© 2018 AFP

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