US wants to repatriate WWII soldiers' remains from China

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will visit Bangkok, Seoul, Manila and Hanoi on his Asian tour

The US would like to strengthen military cooperation with China, including repatriating the remains of American soldiers killed in the country during World War II, a senior Pentagon official said Friday.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who is scheduled to visit Asia next week, will meet with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of a meeting in Bangkok, said Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs.

"Our preference would be a more cooperative relationship with China," Schriver said.

Esper will "ask for increased cooperation on the missing in action, primarily from the Second World War, where we have had off-again, on-again cooperation from the Chinese. And we'd like to see that resume in a more robust level."

The United States fought alongside Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist army in southern China against Japan between 1942 and 1944, in what the US military dubbed the China-Burma-India theater.

Esper also plans to raise violations of international sanctions that have been blamed on China, Schriver said.

Washington accuses Beijing of illicitly providing oil to North Korea.

During his tour, Esper will also visit Seoul, Manila and Hanoi.