U.S. officials in Seoul hope the survivor and the bodies of three U.S. soldiers killed when North Korean machine gunners downed their helicopter Thursday will be returned at a meeting at Panmunjom Saturday.
Forty-nine hours after the unarmed Chinook crashed and burned approximately 3 miles inside North Korea, United Nations and North Korea, commanders are scheduled to discuss the incident at the 385th meeting of the Military Armistic Commission. Rear Adm. Warren C. Hamm Jr., senior member of the U.N. delegation, of the wounded man and the three bodies on humanitarian grounds. Maj-Gen. Han Kyu Jung is expected to report results of a North Korean People's Army investigation into the affair.
The conciliatory tone of public comments by both sides - very unusual in a long history of acrimony over similar incidents - continued today, and has given rise to potimism. In a description of the circumstances. Radio Pyongyang dropped earlier references to the helicopter as "armed."
President: Carter yesterday quoted preliminary reports that said one of the crewmen died in an exchange of fire. U.S. sources, however, confirmed today that the crewmen did not carry sidearms of any other weapons on the cargo mission.
Quoting the official North Korean Central News Agency. Radio Pyongyang said that today "the unhappy incident" would not have happened had the U.S. fliers heeded "repeated warnings."
Warning shots fired by North Korean People's Army regulars forced the helicopter to land, the broadcast said, adding. "Our soldiers repeatedly made signals to stay to be investigated but the helicopter, refusing this, started taking off and flying."
The English-language broadcast monitored in Hong Kong continued: "Our side was compelled to fire again. Two crewmen fell and died while jumping to escape from the helicopter when it was crashing. Another one staying with the plane died from the shock.Another one survived but was wounded."
The North Koreans ended both foreign and domestic reports on a mild note - blaming the incident on the authorities to prevent a recurrence.
The North Koreans said the wounded U.S. soldier was being treated at a military hospital.
The White House said late Friday that CWO Glenn M. Schwanke, 28, of Spring Green, Wis., was the sole survivor. The dead were listed as CWO Joseph A. Miles, 26, of Washington, Ind.: Sgt. Robert E. Wells, 22, of Eu Paso, Tex., and Sgt. Robert C. Haynes, 31, of Anniston, Ala.
[White House officials said a senior North Korean officer had informed the U.S. representative on the Military Armistice Commission of the survivor's identity. The White House said no details were available on Schwanke's condition.]
The only sour note has been the refusal of the North Korean delegation to attend a meeting of the Military Armistice Commission any earlier than 11 a.m. Saturday. The U.N. side accepted the North Korean proposal when there was no response to its three requests for earlier discussions.
In a message phoned to the North Koreans this morning. Adm. Hamm said: "Since the actions of your side have resulted in a two-day postponement, our side also requests that you return the crew members at that meeting."
Hamm's request for information on what kind of medical personnel and equipment should be made available by the U.N. side was not answered.
The tragic results of a navigation mistake by the Chinook helicopter's two pilots has pointed up the tension existing along the demilitarized zone. It has also occasioned, or at least focused interest on, a change in U.S. relatins with North Korea. Pyongyang is no longer spicing up its references to the United States with phrases like "imperalist aggressors," "war-maniacs," and "warmongers," which were routine until the Carter administration took office.
Similary, the United States has been moderate in its statements, U.N. sokesmen who used to stress the bellicose character of President Kim II Sung are now going out of their way to exonerate the North Koreans of blame for downing the helicopter.
Phongyang responed quickly and positively, and seemingly agress with Carter that an isolated incident should not be allowed to escalate into a confrontation.
The White House called the helicopter's intrusion into North Korean territory "regrettable." Perhaps coincidentally, that was the same word Kim II Sung used last August to express concern a the killing of two U.S. Army officers by North Koreans at Panmunjon.
The Carter administration has handled the latest incident with kid glove caution. Washington and Pyongyang appear to share a common goal of not allowing yesterday's events to jeopardize the planned withdrawal of U.S. ground forces from South Korea.
Carter's restrained reaction removed grounds for a more abrasive position by the North Korean leadership. Kim also has the opportunity to improve U.S. attitudes to North Korea, and his country's world image generally by quickly handing over the wounded man and the three bodies.
There are two schools of thought in Seoul on what North Korea will do. One believes that Kim will act magnanimously. Another believes that a division of opinion in North Korea might prompt an effort to extract diplomatic or political concessions from the United States, while delaying the return of the crewmen.