US says no information on soldier who fled to North Korea

US soldier Travis King, who crossed the military demarcation line into North Korea on July 18.


The United States said Wednesday it had no fresh news about an American soldier who abandoned a tour of the demilitarized zone and fled into North Korea, a bizarre incident that has baffled officials in Washington.

US officials have identified the soldier as Private Second Class Travis King, who on Tuesday broke away from a South Korean orientation tour at the border village of Panmunjeon truce and crossed the border, where he is believed to have been detained by North Korean officials.

Little is known about the soldier’s motives or the current situation in the reclusive nation.

“We here at the State Department and at the United Nations are continuing to work closely on this matter to ensure that the well-being and whereabouts of Private King are known,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

US officials said that King, who was previously in the process of being deported back to the United States due to disciplinary problems, somehow reached Panmunjoan and crossed the border “knowingly and without permission”.

Miller said the State Department is continuing to gather information on the case, but did not know anything about his current status.

“I want to make it clear that the administration will continue to actively work to ensure their safety and return them home to their families,” he added.

He said the Pentagon has contacted the North Korean military for information on King’s condition, but has not received a response.

Miller said Washington, which does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, has other channels to communicate.

He noted that the State Department is engaging counterparts in South Korea and Sweden to obtain information on King.

US media said King fled an airport while he was being taken home for disciplinary reasons.

According to South Korean police, King had spent nearly two months in a local jail on assault charges, and was released on 10 July.

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