A U.S. delegation led by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson left Saturday for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), a visit that coincides with a U.S. announcement it has found a way to return frozen funds to Pyongyang.
During the four-day trip, Richardson and his entourage will focus on recovering the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War, the State Department said Wednesday.
More than 33,000 U.S. troops were reportedly killed in the Korean War, which began in June 1950. More than 8,100 U.S. servicemen are still listed as missing from the Korean War.
On Friday, three days after the Pyongyang tour was announced, the State Department said that a way had been found to transfer frozen funds to the DPRK and that U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill would leave for East Asia on Sunday to refocus attention on denuclearization.
"We support the release of all the funds. It is now a matter of technical implementation," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
The DPRK, which agreed to shut down and seal the Yongbyon nuclear facility in six-party talks in February, insisted that its 25 million U.S. dollars frozen at Macao-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA) must be returned before closing the Yongbyon nuclear reactor and starting new negotiations.
Washington blacklisted BDA in September 2005, effectively preventing the bank from doing any business in the United States, after accusing it of being a money-laundering front for Pyongyang. Pyongyang denies the U.S. charges.