North Korea in a brief statement addressed the defection of U.S. Army Private 2nd Class Travis King, an American soldier who dashed across across the demilitarized zone and into the communist nation some two weeks ago, officials revealed.
“I can confirm that the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] has responded to United Nations Command, but I don’t have any substantial progress to read out,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a briefing Tuesday. He added communication from North Korea came through on Monday, though it was little more than “an acknowledgement” King crossed into the country, ABC News reported.
King, a cavalry scout in the Army since January 2021, raced across the border between North and South Korea on July 18, and was immediately detained once on the other side. Just days earlier, the soldier had been released from a South Korean detention facility, where he spent 47 days on assault charges stemming from an altercation with locals.
Following his release, King was supposed to fly back to Fort Bliss in Texas, where he could have faced additional military disciplinary actions and discharge from the service. Instead, he managed to escape his escorts at an airport outside Seoul and then made his way back to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
There, he joined a group touring the Korean border village of Panmunjom and “willfully and without authorization crossed the military demarcation line,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the time.
His exact condition and whereabouts remain unclear, though officials suspect he was initially taken to the capital city of Pyongyang.
With News Wire Services