US Soldier Has Been Detained By North Korea After Unauthorized Border Crossing
A recent report reveals that a serving US soldier has been detained by North Korea after unauthorized border crossing from South Korea. The soldier was part of an organized tour of the United Nations-run zone that separates the two countries.
Cecilia JonesJul 18, 2023682 Shares113710 Views
A recent report reveals that a serving US soldier has been detained by North Korea after unauthorized border crossingfrom South Korea. The soldier was part of an organized tour of the United Nations-run zone that separates the two countries.
This incident has occurred at a time of heightened tension with North Korea, which is known for being one of the most isolated nations in the world. The US government advises its citizens against traveling to North Korea due to the risks involved.
Shortly after the soldier's detention, North Korea conducted the launch of two suspected ballistic missiles into the nearby sea. South Korea's military has confirmed this missile launch, but there is no indication that it is directly linked to the soldier's capture.
It remains unclear whether the soldier intends to defect to North Korea or seeks to return to the United States. No statements have been made by North Korean officials regarding this matter.
Identified as Private 2nd Class Travis King, the soldier has been associated with the US Army since January 2021. He serves as a cavalry scout, specializing in reconnaissance, and was originally deployed with an element of the 1st Armoured Division on rotation in South Korea.
According to officials from the US Army, Pte King was being transported back to the United States for disciplinary reasons following a period of detention at a military facility. It has been reported that Pte King had cleared airport security in Seoul but managed to leave the terminal and join a tour of the border, ultimately crossing over without authorization. The US military has stated that Pte King's actions were intentional and unauthorized.
A witness who was part of the same tour recounted the incident to a media outlet, stating that during their visit to a building at the border site, which local media has identified as the truce village of Panmunjom, an individual suddenly exclaimed with laughter and swiftly ran between some nearby buildings.
"I thought it was a bad joke at first but, when he didn't come back, I realised it wasn't a joke and then everybody reacted and things got crazy," they said.
US soldier detained by North Korea after crossing border
The United Nations Command, responsible for overseeing the Demilitarized Zone and joint security area (JSA), has confirmed that its team initiated contact with the North Korean military in an attempt to negotiate the release of the detained US soldier.
"We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident," it said.
The current whereabouts and conditions in which Private 2nd Class Travis King is being held remain uncertain. Greg Scarlatoiu, the executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, based in Washington DC, has suggested that North Korean authorities are likely to extract information from him regarding his military service and potentially coerce him into serving as a propaganda tool.
The Korean People's Army (KPA) is North Korea's military force. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which acts as a buffer between the two Koreas, is known to be one of the most heavily fortified regions globally. The area is fortified with landmines, surrounded by electric and barbed wire fencing, and closely monitored by surveillance cameras. Armed guards are expected to remain vigilant around the clock within this zone.
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has served as a separation between North and South Korea since the Korean War in the 1950s, during which the United States supported South Korea. The war ended with an armistice, meaning that the two countries are still technically at war.
While numerous individuals attempt to escape North Korea each year due to poverty and famine, defections across the heavily fortified DMZ are rare and extremely perilous. North Korea sealed its borders in 2020 at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and has not yet reopened them.
The last known defection at the Joint Security Area (JSA) occurred in 2017 when a North Korean soldier drove a vehicle and then ran across the military demarcation line on foot, despite being fired upon approximately 40 times. The soldier survived the incident.
Before the pandemic, more than 1,000 people per year fled from North Korea to China, according to figures released by the South Korean government. The detention of the US soldier presents a significant foreign policy challenge for President Biden. Private 2nd Class Travis King is currently believed to be the only American citizen in North Korean custody, while six South Koreans also remain detained.
US-North Korea relations deteriorated in 2017 following the death of an American student who had been arrested a year earlier for stealing a propaganda sign. The student was returned to the US in a comatose state and subsequently died, with his family blaming the North Korean authorities for his death.
During former President Donald Trump's tenure, three US citizens were eventually released in 2018. However, despite a series of talks between Kim Jong Un and Trump, the overall relationship between the two countries saw little improvement.
Since then, North Korea has conducted numerous tests of increasingly powerful missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, leading to the imposition of sanctions by the US and its allies. The detention of the US soldier coincides with the arrival of a US nuclear-capable submarine in South Korea for the first time since 1981.
The submarine was deployed specifically to address the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. Prior to its deployment, Pyongyang authorities issued warnings of retaliation, emphasizing that the presence of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula could escalate into a nuclear crisis.