North Korea has acknowledged a United Nations Command request for information on US soldier Travis King who bolted across the country’s border last month, the Pentagon has said.
But Pyongyang stopped short of giving any details about the 23-year-old’s whereabouts.
“I can confirm that the DPRK has responded to United Nations Command, but I don’t have any substantial progress to read out,” spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told a press conference on Tuesday, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
When pressed, Mr Ryder said that North Korea’s message back to the UN Command was just “an acknowledgement” of the inquiry.
Last week the UN said “delicate” talks had begun over the fate of Private King, who had joined a civilian tour of the Joint Security Area (JSA) between the South and North, before “wilfully” crossing into the latter on July 18.
In a briefing last week Lieutenant General Andrew Harrison, the force’s deputy commander, said a “conversation” had begun between the UNC and the North’s Korean People’s Army.
“The primary concern for us is Private King’s welfare,” he said.
Talks about the fate of Private King had begun under the rules of the armistice agreement that brought a truce to the 1950-53 Korean War, he confirmed, adding that he did not wish to reveal any details that could prejudice the process.
“Obviously there is someone’s welfare at stake and clearly we are in a very difficult and complex situation which I don’t want to risk by speculation or going into too much detail about the communications,” Lt Gen Harrison said at the time.
Private King joined the US Army in January 2021 and had served as a Cavalry Scout with the Korean Rotational Force.
While in South Korea he had faced allegations of assault and a £3,097 fine for damaging a police car.
The soldier had just finished a stint in a detention facility for an unspecified infraction and was accompanied to the airport by a military escort, who could not join him beyond customs and immigration.