"There is no reason to doubt that they do relate to Korean War losses", John Byrd, director of analysis for the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), told reporters at Osan air base in South Korea, just before the remains were due to be flown to Hawaii for further analysis and identification.
Vice President Mike Pence met with the top US commander in Asia before participating in a ceremony marking the arrival of remains believed to be of servicemen from the Korean War.
"We have gathered - as the successors of the United Nations Command in the Republic of Korea, and as the beneficiaries of the noble sacrifices of those who for a short while longer will remain nameless, yet in our presence - to render our final salutes to them", United Nations Command and U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Vincent K. Brooks said during the repatriation ceremony.
The Department of Defense is beginning the long and hard task of identifying the remains turned over to the United States from North Korea. That shift has stalled as President Donald Trump has refused to lift sanctions on the country, citing its refusal to denuclearize. The US has tried to ban North Korea from getting any petroleum at all, but the United Nations has rejected such proposals. In that address, the North Korean leader was unequivocal about what was next, they say.
"That's why the first step the intelligence community is probably looking for is a complete declaration of nuclear and missile related facilities - to see if North Korea includes everything they already know about or suspect", he said.
"Keep in mind that it's not necessarily the case that" the person identified in the dog tag will be among the remains but they're hopeful, he said.
The solemn journey home for dozens of remains of US and allied soldiers killed during the Korean War began Wednesday with a repatriation ceremony at a warehouse inside the Osan Air Base in South Korea.
Many analysts and independent experts, however, see that dismantling as largely symbolic, since North Korea has now successfully launched ICBMs that use the kind of liquid-fueled engines tested at Sohae. USA intelligence agencies in recent months increased their estimates of the size of North Korea's nuclear arsenal, taking into account enriched uranium from at least one secret enrichment site.
About 7,700 USA soldiers are listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War, and 5,300 of the remains are believed to still be in North Korea.
Administration officials insisted Tuesday that progress is being made on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's pledge to surrender his nuclear and missile programs, even as a high-level meeting between North and South military leaders on Tuesday failed to make progress on formally ending the decades-old frozen war between the two.
Why are USA remains in North Korea?
Questions have arisen over Pyongyang's commitment to denuclearize after USA spy satellite material detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country's first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.
Troops from 16 other nations also fought alongside the Americans under a U.N. flag during the Korean War, and diplomats and officials from all those countries placed wreaths at the ceremony.
Identifying the remains will be a challenge.
The recovery efforts stalled for more than a decade because of a standoff over North Korea's nuclear ambitions and a previous USA claim that security arrangements for its personnel working in the North were insufficient. But since then, North Korea has made few tangible moves signaling an intention to disarm.