Friday, May 24, 2024

U.S. soldier who crossed into North Korea back in American custody

(Al Jazeera Media Network) A United States soldier who was detained after crossing into North Korea two months ago is back in American custody, U.S. officials have said, after Pyongyang said Travis King would be deported.

In a statement on Wednesday confirming news reports, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said officials had “secured the return” of the soldier.

“We appreciate the dedication of the interagency team that has worked tirelessly out of concern for Private King’s wellbeing,” Sullivan said.

“In addition, we thank the government of Sweden for its diplomatic role serving as the protecting power for the United States in (North Korea) and the government of the People’s Republic of China for its assistance in facilitating the transit of Private King.”

The Associated Press first reported on Wednesday morning that King was in U.S. custody, hours after North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said authorities had finished questioning him.

An unnamed U.S. official told AP that King was transferred to U.S. custody in China.

KCNA’s earlier report said that King had confessed to illegally entering the North because he harboured “ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination” within the U.S. Army.

After completing its investigation, the “relevant organ of the DPRK decided to expel Travis King, a soldier of the U.S. Army who illegally intruded into the territory of the DPRK,” the news agency reported, using the formal name for North Korea.

King bolted into North Korea in July while on a tour of the southern side of an inter-Korean truce village. He was serving nearly two months in a South Korean prison for assault.

King was released on July 10 and was being sent home to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he could have faced additional military discipline and discharge from the service.

The border between the two Koreas is heavily fortified but at the Joint Security Area, the frontier is marked only by a low concrete divider and is relatively easy to cross, despite the presence of soldiers on both sides.

King’s border crossing came as relations between South and North Korea were at one of their lowest points, with diplomacy stalled and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling for increased weapons development, including tactical nuclear warheads.

BIG Media
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