Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

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US Army soldier Travis King appears in this unknown location, undated photo. —Reuters
US Army soldier Travis King appears in this unknown location, undated photo. —Reuters

Private Travis King, the US soldier who crossed into North Korea in July, is now in US custody and on his way home after being expelled by North Korea into China.

This resolution marks a rare instance of cooperation between the United States, North Korea, and China, although specific details about the diplomacy leading to King’s transfer remain limited.

King, 23, made a sudden dash into North Korea from South Korea on July 18 while on a civilian tour of the Joint Security Area on the heavily fortified border between the two countries. He was promptly taken into North Korean custody, sparking discussions within the US government. However, Washington did not declare him a prisoner of war, while North Korea treated his case as one of illegal immigration.

North Korea’s KCNA state news agency reported that King had been expelled after admitting to entering North Korea illegally due to disillusionment with what he perceived as unequal US society. 

KCNA stated, “King confessed that he illegally intruded into the territory of the DPRK as he harboured ill feelings against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US army and was disillusioned about the unequal US society.”

US officials confirmed that King appeared to be in good health and spirits upon his departure from China, where he was able to speak with his family after his release from North Korea. His return followed months of intense diplomacy, and no concessions were made to North Korea in exchange for his release.

The Swedish government played a key role in retrieving King from North Korea and bringing him to China, where he was taken into US custody. Sweden has been the “protecting power” for the United States in North Korea, as the US lacks diplomatic representation in the country.

Regarding the possibility of discipline for King, he had faced allegations of assault in South Korea and had pleaded guilty to one instance of assault and property damage. He had been set to face further disciplinary measures upon returning to the United States. 

One US official mentioned that the military would assess potential administrative actions against King after evaluation, reintegration, and reuniting with his family. It was not directly confirmed whether he would face a court martial.

King is heading to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, the same base where basketball star Brittney Griner was treated last year after a prisoner swap with Russia secured her release from Russian detention.

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