South Korea repatriates remains of 20 Chinese soldiers
SEOUL (AFP) – Seoul repatriated the remains of 20 Chinese soldiers killed during the Korean War on Wednesday, its defence ministry said, reflecting warming ties between the former Cold War foes.
South Korean soldiers handed over lacquered wooden caskets covered with red Chinese flags to Chinese honour guards at Incheon airport, west of Seoul, where they were loaded onto a Chinese air force cargo plane.
The transfer brought the total number of Chinese remains repatriated since a 2013 agreement to 589.
The repatriations took place ahead of China’s annual Qingming — tomb-sweeping — festival, when many people visit and clean the graves of their ancestors.
An estimated three million Communist Chinese troops played a crucial role in support of the North during the 1950-53 conflict, known in China as the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea.
They saved the North from defeat as US-led United Nations forces drove Kim Il Sung’s army back towards the Chinese frontier in late 1950, before the two sides ended up in a stalemate along what is now the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula.
Casualty figures remain disputed but Western estimates commonly cite a figure of 400,000 Chinese deaths, while Chinese sources give a death toll of about 180,000.