North Korea Stays Silent on U.S. Soldier who Crossed Border

July 20, 2023

North Korea has not yet commented on a U.S. soldier who broke from a tour on Tuesday and bolted across the border from South Korea.

The Pentagon has stated that Army Pvt. Travis King “willfully and without authorization” crossed into the North while on a group tour of the Joint Security Area (JSA), which lies in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea.

The 23-year-old had been assigned to South Korea as a member of the First Brigade Combat Team, First Armored Division. Earlier this month, he was released from a South Korean detention center where he had been held for 48 days on assault charges. 

Though he was escorted by U.S. military personnel to Incheon International Airport outside Seoul on Monday to board a plane to the United States, where he was expected to face additional disciplinary action, he instead took a tour bus to the JSA.

The U.S. and North Korea are still technically at war, and relations have deteriorated since 2019 when diplomacy between then-Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down.

The U.S. State Department bans Americans from entering North Korea “due to the continuing serious risk of arrest and long term detention of U.S. nationals.”

The ban was put in place after American college student Otto Warmbier was detained in North Korea while on a tour of the country in 2015. He died in 2017, days after he was released from prison and returned to the United States in a coma.

U.S. detainees in North Korea have undergone exhaustive interrogations and are often positioned in  propaganda videos where they apologize for “hostile acts,” which many have later said were scripted by the North Korean government.

The State Department confirmed Wednesday that North Korea has not so far responded to Washington’s inquiries about Pvt. King. 

“Yesterday the Pentagon reached out to counterparts in the [North] Korean People’s Army. My understanding is that those communications have not yet been answered,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Wednesday.

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