American Soldier Travis King in U.S. Custody After Fleeing to N.Korea

  • VOA News

    September 28, 2023 08:01

    The Pentagon says an American soldier who illegally crossed into North Korea in July is now in U.S. custody.
    A senior Biden administration official told reporters that King was transferred out of North Korea and crossed the border to China with the help of the government of Sweden. The official said the U.S. received him in China and transferred him home.
    "We thank the government of Sweden for its diplomatic role serving as the protecting power for the U.S. in North Korea and the government of the People's Republic of China for its assistance in facilitating the transit of Private King," National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement Wednesday.
    Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder praised "the hard work of personnel in the Army, U.S. Forces Korea, and across the Department of Defense to bring Private King home."
    A TV screen shows a file image of American soldier Travis King during a news program at a railway station in Seoul on Sept. 27, 2023. /AP
    There were no concessions given to North Korea for this exchange, a senior administration official told VOA during a briefing to reporters Wednesday. "We're going to focus for the next several weeks for as long as it takes to get private King on good -- on solid footing. And then we'll address any administrative actions that may follow after the reintegration process," the official said.
    A statement Wednesday from a representative of Claudine Gates, King's mother, said, "Ms. Gates will be forever grateful to the U.S. Army and all its interagency partners for a job well done."
    Earlier Wednesday, North Korea said it was expelling King after wrapping up its final investigation of him. He was taken by North Korean soldiers in July after dashing through the Koreas' heavily militarized border.
    King was facing pending administrative separation from the U.S. Army when he returned to his base in Fort Bliss, Texas, after spending time in a South Korean jail on assault charges. He was about to board a plane to the U.S. on July 17 when he snuck out of the airport and made it onto a civilian tour of the border complex between North and South Korea one day later.
    King was taken by North Korean soldiers on duty at the Joint Security Area, the official [North] Korean Central News Agency reported, when the plain-clothed soldier "deliberately intruded into the area of the [North Korean] side between the room for [North Korea]-U.S. military contacts and the restroom of security officers along the Military Demarcation Line."
    The KCNA said Wednesday that King had harbored ill feelings over inhumane treatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. army. It added that North Korea's interim findings were that King wanted refuge in North Korea or elsewhere because of that same reason.
    The Military Demarcation Line is the official border separating the two Koreas, put in place by an armistice that paused the 1950-1953 Korean War, which remains without a formal end and peace treaty.
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