South Korea repatriates remains of 88 Chinese soldiers killed in Korean war
- The handover of the bodies was the first since pro-US President Yoon Suk-yeol came to power in May
- In 2014 the two countries agreed to start repatriating the remains of soldiers killed fighting alongside North Korean forces in the 1950-53 conflict
South Korean honour guards handed over wooden caskets with the remains during a ceremony at Incheon airport near Seoul, where they were loaded onto a Chinese air force cargo plane in an event broadcast on a live video stream.
This was the ninth such handover since the two countries – former Cold War-era foes – signed a 2014 agreement on the issue, and brings the total sets of returned Chinese remains to 913.
Friday’s repatriations are also the first to take place since the inauguration of South Korea’s Yoon, who has sought to maintain a friendly relationship with Beijing even as he moves to deepen ties with major security ally Washington.
“Our yearly handovers of the remains of Chinese troops are held on a humanitarian basis, but also symbolise friendly cooperation between South Korea and China,” Lee Do-hoon, South Korea’s second vice-minister for foreign affairs, told the event.
Lee added the two countries would pursue “diverse forms” of cooperation, as they mark 30 years since bilateral diplomatic relations were established.
An estimated three million Communist Chinese troops fought alongside Pyongyang’s forces and helped tip the balance of the conflict.
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.