Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

US soldier Travis King, who fled from South to North Korea in July, is in American custody after being expelled by Pyongyang, officials say.

According to US media reports, Pte King was transferred into US custody in China.

The 23-year-old reconnaissance specialist illegally crossed into North Korea in July.

North Korean media said he had fled because of “inhuman treatment” and racism within the US military.

His condition and the details of his confinement in North Korea remain unclear.

Earlier on Wednesday, North Korea’s state-run news agency said the country had decided to remove Pte King, without offering further details.

“The relevant body in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has decided to deport US soldier Travis King, who illegally entered the territory of the republic, in accordance with the laws of the republic,” it said.

Pte King has been in the army since January 2021 and was in South Korea as part of a unit rotation.

Before entering North Korea, he had served two months in detention in South Korea on charges that he assaulted two people and kicked a police car. He was released from custody on 10 July.

He had been due to return to the US for disciplinary proceedings, but managed to leave the airport and join a guided tour of the border village of Panmunjom on the heavily guarded Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between the two countries. Pte King crossed into North Korea while on the tour.

It is unclear whether he could face additional charges over his decision to enter North Korea.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesperson Brig Gen Patrick Ryder expressed thanks to both the Swedish and Chinese governments for helping secure Pte King’s release.

As the US and North Korea have no diplomatic relations, Sweden’s embassy in Pyongyang has traditionally negotiated on behalf of the US.

A Swedish embassy spokesman confirmed that the country had acted “within its role as a protective power” for the US in North Korea during the King case.

The US Department of State and White House did not immediately comment on the matter.

Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for Pte King’s mother, Claudine Gates, said in a statement that she will “forever be grateful” to the US Army and its partners “for a job well done”.

The statement added that Pte King’s family does not intend to give any interviews “for the foreseeable future”.

His relatives have previously told US media that he had experienced discrimination while serving in the US military.

They have said his mental health suffered during his time in South Korean custody.

In an interview with the Associated Press news agency last month, Ms Gates said her son had “so many reasons to come home”.

“I just can’t see him ever wanting to just stay in Korea when he has family in America,” she said.

North Korea’s release of Pte King after 71 days is fast when compared with other Americans that the country has previously held.

Some analysts had speculated Pyongyang might have opted to use the US soldier as a diplomatic bargaining chip.

Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defence and CIA paramilitary officer, told the BBC it is a “good thing” that Pte King was being returned to US custody, although he “is a young man that made some mistakes”.

“He is a US soldier and it was important that we did everything we could to bring him home,” Mr Mulroy added.

BBC

By Admin

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