The suffering continues; the world agonizes. While the diplomats wrangle and the negotiators argue, the fighting in the blighted Korean countryside continues. Korea's rugged landscape is festooned by barbed wire and trenches. Towns and villages lay in ruins, the hillsides and valleys are scarred by bomb craters and columns of destroyed armor. The lives of thousands of combat troops and civilians are sacrificed at the negotiating table as stories emerge of atrocities committed by both sides. There are accusations by North Korea about the inclusion of biological weapons in United States Air Force bombing raids, and the threat of the use of atomic weapons remains constant. Amid allegations of retribution and reprisals, one of the major issues at the negotiations is the sensitive issue of the repatriation of prisoners of war. Both sides are reluctant to release prisoners to an uncertain future. Eventually, the prisoner issue is resolved and a ceasefire is declared on July 27, 1953. After three years of war, with the country destroyed and at the cost of millions of lives, a divided nation returns to the status quo of 1950.