North Korea remains silent on apparent detention of US soldiers who forced their way through the border

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea on Wednesday described the highly unusual intrusion of US troops across its heavily fortified border despite testing short-range missiles at a state-of-the-art weapons display. remained silent.

Almost a day after the soldier burst into North Korea while inspecting the border village of Panmunjom, nothing has been announced about the safety of Private First Class Travis King, the first American to be detained in North Korea in nearly five years. there was no North Korea’s missile launch on Wednesday morning appears to be a protest against the deployment of a US nuclear-powered submarine to South Korea the day before and has nothing to do with King’s border crossing.

“North Korea is likely to use the soldier for propaganda purposes in the short term and as a bargaining chip in the medium to long term,” said Yang Moo-jin, president of South Korea’s University of North Korean Studies. .

King, 23, was a cavalry scout with the 1st Armored Division and had spent nearly two months in a South Korean prison for assault. He was released on July 10 and was scheduled to be sent to his home in Fort Bliss, Texas, on Monday, where additional military discipline and discharge could have awaited.

He was escorted to customs, but left the airport before boarding the plane. It’s not clear how he spent his time on the Panmunjom tour and running across the border on Tuesday afternoon. After notifying King’s family, the Army released King’s name and limited information. However, due to the sensitivity of the matter, a number of US officials, on condition of anonymity, provided additional details.

King’s mother told ABC News she was shocked to hear her son had gone to North Korea.

“I can’t believe Travis would do something like that,” said Claudine Gates of Racine, Wisconsin.

Gates said he was told by the military about his son’s entry into North Korea on Tuesday morning. She said she was last contacted by her son “a few days ago” to tell him that her son would be returning to Fort Bliss soon. She just “wants him to come back,” she added.

White House press secretary Carine Jean-Pierre said the United States was working with North Korea to “resolve this incident.” The U.S.-led United Nations Command said Tuesday that U.S. soldiers are believed to be in custody in North Korea.

“We are closely monitoring and investigating the situation,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told a Pentagon press conference, saying the safety of the troops was his primary concern. “We will keep you informed as this situation will evolve in the coming days and hours.”

It is unclear whether and how the United States and North Korea, which do not have diplomatic relations, will engage in dialogue. Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang, has in the past provided consular services to other Americans detained in North Korea. However, diplomatic officials at the Swedish embassy have reportedly not returned to North Korea since the country imposed a COVID-19 lockdown in early 2020 and ordered a travel ban on all foreigners. No.

Some observers say North Korea and the US may still be able to communicate via the North Korean Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Panmunjom and New York.

Americans and South Koreans defecting to North Korea are rare, but since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, more than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea to avoid political repression and economic hardship. there is

Former minister at the North Korean Embassy in London, Tae Yong-ho, said King’s river crossing happened on the same day that a US submarine arrived in South Korea, giving North Korea an “opportunity to make the US lose face”. He said he is likely to be pleased. Thae, who is now a member of the South Korean National Assembly, said it was unlikely that North Korea would return the king because the king was a soldier of a country that was effectively at war with North Korea and had surrendered voluntarily. said.

Located within the 248-kilometer (154-mile) long demilitarized zone, Panmunjom has been jointly overseen by the United Nations Command and North Korea since it was created at the end of the Korean War. There have been occasional bloodsheds there, but it has also been used as a place for diplomacy and tourism.

Known for its blue huts straddling the concrete slabs that form its perimeter, Panmunjom attracts visitors from both sides to see the last frontier of the Cold War. No civilians live in Panmunjom. North and South Korean soldiers face off, and tourists from both sides take pictures.

Tours to the south side of the village reportedly drew about 100,000 visitors a year before the coronavirus pandemic, when South Korea restricted gatherings to slow the spread of the virus. It is said that The tour resumed in earnest last year.

Among the few US soldiers who went to North Korea during the Cold War was Charles Jenkins, who abandoned his South Korean garrison in 1965 and fled across the Demilitarized Zone. He starred in a North Korean propaganda film and married a Japanese nursing student who had been abducted from Japan by North Korean agents. He died in Japan in 2017.

In recent years, some U.S. civilians have been arrested in North Korea on charges of espionage, subversion and other anti-state acts, after the U.S. sent a dignitary mission to secure their freedom. , was released.

In May 2018, North Korea released three American detainees who flew back to the United States with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a brief and warm relationship. In late 2018, North Korea announced that it had expelled American Bruce Byron Lawrance. Since his ouster, there have been no reports of other Americans being detained in North Korea prior to Tuesday’s incident.

Their freedom contrasted sharply with the fate of American college student Otto Warmbier, who died in 2017 just days after being released in a coma by North Korea after 17 months of captivity.

The United States, South Korea and others have accused North Korea of ​​using foreign detainees to extract diplomatic concessions. After their release, some foreigners said they were forced to plead guilty while in North Korean custody.

Sean Timmons, managing partner of Tully Linkey law firm, which specializes in military litigation, said whether Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to prove he was a legitimate refugee fleeing political repression and persecution. He said the decision would depend on North Korea’s leadership. he can stay

He said it was likely that it would be up to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to decide King’s fate.

“It would be at the whim of their leaders and what they wanted to do,” Timmons said.


Mr. Kopp reported from Washington. Washington-based Associated Press reporters Matthew Lee and Zeke Miller contributed to the report.

https://fox40.com/news/national/ap-us-news/ap-north-korea-silent-about-its-apparent-detention-of-the-us-soldier-who-bolted-across-the-border/ North Korea remains silent on apparent detention of US soldiers who forced their way through the border

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