An American soldier is being held in North Korea after crossing the border without permission. A Pentagon spokesman confirmed this information.
A US service member on an orientation trip to the Joint Security Area crossed the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea intentionally and without authorization. We believe he is currently being held in the DPRK, and we are working with our KPA colleagues to resolve this incident.”
The US soldier has been identified as Private Second Class Travis King, officials have told CBS News, the BBC’s US partner.
CNN reported that US authorities are waiting to officially confirm his identity so that his next of kin can be notified that he is in North Korean custody.
An official told CBS that the soldier was taken out of the country for disciplinary reasons and passed through airport security but managed to exit the terminal and join border patrol.
A third source, a defense official, told CBS that the soldier crossed the border “voluntarily.” His motive remains unclear.
A witness who was in the same tour group told CBS that the soldier laughed before he ran into the North Korean.
The witness said, “At first I thought it was a bad joke, but when it didn’t come back I realized it wasn’t a joke.”
It remains unclear what the soldier’s motives were.
cross the border “voluntarily”
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said it was clear the soldier had crossed the border “voluntarily of his own free will” and without permission, but did not say whether this was desertion.
He also said that while the State Department had no contact with North Korea, it understood that the Pentagon was.
Miller said he was not aware of any US government contact with China “at this time.”
According to him, the Ministry of Defense is the leader in this matter.
Mueller added that if there was any action the State Department could take, they would not hesitate to take it.
When asked by a reporter if the American soldier had defected to North Korea, Miller replied, “All I will say, as I said at the beginning, is that he obviously crossed the border voluntarily of his own free will.”
US officials said the matter was still under investigation.
US forces in Korea
The United States maintains a significant presence in the region of the two Koreas, even seven decades after the Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953, which ended the Korean War.
There are said to be 28,000 US troops stationed in South Korea – making it the third largest foreign US military presence, according to a 2021 Reuters report.
South Korea is also home to the largest US military base abroad.
The US military works closely with the South Korean military, and is part of a security alliance that has been in place since the US entered the Korean War in 1950.
After more than 70 years, the United States and South Korea have continued their partnership – and that’s because the Korean War never ended.
An armistice stopped the fighting, but there was never a treaty to end the conflict between North Korea, South Korea, and their allies.
North Korea remains a concern for both the United States and South Korea, as it frequently tests its missile capabilities and advances its nuclear weapons programme.
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