In their zeal to impeach President Donald Trump for an alleged quid pro quo, the Democrats are overlooking a salient fact: quid pro quos are a two-way street. The United States government is as subject to quid pro quos from foreign governments as they are to ours. If the Democrats want to deal sincerely with a foreign-imposed quid pro quo that hurts some of their constituents, perhaps they could help the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) repatriate the remains of the approximately 7,600 unaccounted for American warfighters whose bones are still bleaching in the wild in North Korea.
The idea of quid pro quos as a necessary part of governments doing business with one another is hardly new. As far back as 1841, when John Tyler was U.S. President, people realized that governments could not get deals done with one another unless there were quid pro quos.
“The London Globe is evidently not a firm believer in the Anglo-American Treaty. In a recent issue, commenting on a letter of Secretary of State, Hay’s said, “There can never be anything in the nature of a combative alliance between the two great English-speaking peoples until each is in a position to offer the other an equitable quid pro quo.” The North Koreans believe that. Why can’t Democrats?
American officials have been seeking permission for years to search in North Korea for the remains of our country’s unaccounted for warfighters’ remains. As of November 14, 2019 there were 7,605 unaccounted for U.S. service members from the Korean War. Unfortunately, most of the remains are in North Korea where they are used as bargaining chips. If we want to repatriate them, we have to deal with an immoral quid pro quo with the North Korean government.
Current recovery operations are on hiatus despite strong support from Secretary of State Pompeo and Special Representative Stephen E. Biegun, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea. Biegun is leading U.S. efforts to achieve President Trump’s goal of the fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. Chairman Kim Jong Un agreed to this goal at the Singapore summit.
Mr. Biegun directs all U.S. policy on North Korea, leads negotiations, and spearheads U.S. diplomatic efforts with allies and partners. That presumably includes the repatriation of American warfighters’ remains since the North Koreans have tied the issue with a reduction in sanctions and denuclearization. Now there is a quid pro quo that should concern the Democrats and all U.S. government officials.
Since March 2019 American negotiators have had no communication from the Korean People’s Army re remains recovery efforts. DPAA has a proposal ready for FY2020 field operations and stands ready to present it as the opportunity presents itself. As DPPA Director Kelly McKeague has revealed, there has been no progress on remains recovery with the DPRK. However, like the other stipulations from the Singapore Summit, it was discussed during the recent denuclearization working level meeting in Stockholm.
No agreements were reached and it’s unknown whether follow-up meetings will occur in the coming months. DPRK’s army never responded to the letter Mr. McKeague sent on July 4, 2019 seeking to provide them with the DPAA’s proposal for FY20 field operations. He noted that DPAA is always open and ready to meet with them when they decide to do so. But, the U.S. Congress in general and the Democrats are of little help in addressing the quid pro quo in place. Instead, the recovery of remains effort is in the hands of the families of missing veterans–which is not where it should be.
Mr. McKeague has suggested that the families and veterans may want to contact the DPRK Mission in New York to articulate how important the resumption of remains recovery is. If the North Koreans are willing to negotiate seriously with U.S. government officials about denuclearization and the removal of sanctions, it is unlikely they will work with individuals about remains recovery projects. It is the job of Congress to conduct those negotiations. Perhaps the North Korean quid pro quo is one it does not wish to address.
Similar problems remain with Russia in the remains repatriations arena. The alleged cozy relationship our president has with Russia touted by his opponents apparently does not extend to joint efforts to identify American Korean War veterans’ remains.
A US–Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) is still active and Korean War and Cold War Technical Talks [were] scheduled for December. U.S. Co-Chairman General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), U.S. Side Chairman, is scheduled to visit Moscow in January 2020 to meet with his counterpart. But, the USRJC Plenum had to be pushed to next May in Moscow because the Russian Side is down to two Commissioners and is in the process of appointing new ones.
The USRJC is unfortunately affected by the currently strained bilateral relationship, and U.S. negotiators have seen a lessening of cooperation. For example, the Russians canceled the DPAA’s planned excavation in Vladivostok this past summer. Such actions do little to assuage the concerns of American family members who hope to one day welcome home from Korea the remains of their beloved KIAs/MIAs after 66 years. Those families are the real victims of a quid pro quo that borders on immoral, i.e., linking the return of warfighters’ remains to a demand for the removal of sanctions and favorable denuclearization terms.
Why aren’t Democrats interested in addressing reverse quid pro quos that are truly harmful to Americans? That is a question only they can answer. Thousands of American families yearning to see their loved ones come home from Korea are waiting for their response.
Art Sharp Editor
Korean War Veterans