From Travis King/Facebook
Travis King crossed the military demarcation line into North Korea on July 18.
U.S. Army Private Travis King is back in U.S. custody, two U.S. officials said Wednesday, weeks after his passing into North Korea.
The news came after North Korean state media KCNA reported earlier on Wednesday that the secretive state had decided to “expatriate” King, who entered its territory during a tour of the Joint Security Area (JSA) between North and South Korea in July.
The KCNA statement said the North Korean investigation into King had been “completed”.
King crossed the military demarcation line north from South Korea during a tour of the Joint Security Area inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in July. US military officials said King crossed the border “intentionally and without authorization”.
King, a junior enlisted soldier assigned to U.S. Forces Korea, faces assault charges in South Korea and will return to Fort Bliss, Texas, and was discharged from the military a day before he was due to travel to North Korea, CNN previously reported.
North Korea said on Wednesday that “King admitted to illegally infiltrating DPRK territory because he had a bad feeling against the inhumane abuse and racial discrimination within the US military.”
CNN could not verify whether these were King’s own words.
There is no physical barrier between the JSA and an American officer inside had said before After crossing the demarcation line, King tried to enter the North Korean facility – but the door was locked. He then ran to the back of the building, at which point he was loaded into a van and driven away by North Korean guards.
King, a cavalry scout who joined the Army in January 2021, was released from detention in South Korea a week before the incident, where he had served 50 days, security officials told CNN.
The day before he left for North Korea, King was scheduled to board a flight to Texas, where he was to face disciplinary procedures. But after military security released him at a security checkpoint at Incheon International Airport near Seoul, King left the airport.
The next day, he joined the JSA’s tour, which he had previously booked with a private company.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said last month that it would not be “out of character” for North Korea to use a US soldier. A propaganda tool or bargaining.
“They certainly could. … We don’t see any indication that that’s what’s going on here, but certainly not the characteristics for them,” Kirby told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.” “What we’re focusing on is trying to make sure we can get information on him.”
Kirby said King’s whereabouts were unclear at the time, and information about “the conditions under which he is being held” and his health.