The United States has declined to classify Army Pvt. Travis King as a prisoner of war, as he continues to be held in North Korea after crossing into the repressive state last month.
The decision could mean King could not be entitled to the protections granted to POWs under the Geneva Convention, said Reuters, which first reported the decision. Fox News Digital has reached out to the Pentagon.
U.S. officials have said the priority is to bring King home.
“Private King must be treated humanely in accordance with international law,” a Pentagon spokesperson told Reuters.
Another official told the news outlet that the U.S. could call King a POW at a later time. Prisoners of war are protected by the Third Geneva Convention, which North Korea and the U.S. have signed onto. It entails standards for the treatment of captives, their medical needs, to the ability of prisoners to send messages to their families.
King, 23, “willingly” crossed into North Korea on July 18 while on a civilian tour of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, officials have said. The two Koreas are technically still at war after signing an armistice in 1953 following a bloody conflict between both nations.
King was supposed to fly from South Korea to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he was expected to face disciplinary proceedings after a short jail term on assault charges. At the time, he was stationed in South Korea.
He instead skipped his flight and joined the tour group to the DMZ, where he dashed across the border.
Earlier this week, Pentagon spokesman, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, confirmed “that the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) has responded to United Nations Command (UNC).”
“What I will tell you is, as you heard us say previously, United Nations Command did communicate or provide some communication via well established communication channels,” Ryder said.