US soldier Travis King heads home after North Korea expels him | Mint
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Business News/ News / World/  US soldier Travis King heads home after North Korea expels him

US soldier Travis King heads home after North Korea expels him

US soldier Travis King, who ran into North Korea in July, is in U.S. custody and heading home after being expelled by North Korea into China.

US soldier Travis King heads home after North Korea expels him (AP)Premium
US soldier Travis King heads home after North Korea expels him (AP)

Private Travis King, the U.S. soldier who crossed into North Korea in July, is now under U.S. custody and en route back to the United States after North Korea expelled him to China.

As reported by Reuters, the circumstances surrounding the diplomatic efforts that facilitated King's transfer are not fully disclosed, but this incident represents a noteworthy instance of cooperation involving the United States, North Korea, and China. According to the State Department, King is anticipated to arrive back in the United States later today.

At the age of 23, Travis King unexpectedly crossed into North Korea from South Korea on July 18 during a civilian visit to the heavily fortified border. He was promptly apprehended by North Korean authorities.

Also Read: US soldier detained in North Korea after crossing the border: Report

The US government chose not to classify him as a prisoner of war, despite internal discussions on the matter. Conversely, North Korea seemed to regard his case as an instance of illegal immigration.

North Korea's KCNA state news agency said King told Pyongyang he entered North Korea illegally because he was disillusioned about unequal US society.

Reuters noted that North Korea's announcement, as reported by KCNA, provided the conclusive findings of their investigation into King's border crossing. In the previous month, they had stated that King sought refuge in North Korea or any other place due to alleged mistreatment and racial discrimination within the US military.

The Swedish government, acting on behalf of US interests in North Korea since the United States lacks diplomatic representation in the country, facilitated the retrieval of the King from North Korea and subsequently transported him to China.

Also Read: Will there be US Military bases on Indian soil? Congress questions Centre on Indo-US joint statement

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters that King was met by the US ambassador to Beijing, Nicholas Burns, in Dandong, China, a river city bordering North Korea. Miller said King flew from there to Shenyang, China, then to Osan Air Force Base in South Korea.

Expressing gratitude to Sweden and China, U.S. officials, citing U.S. diplomatic representatives who saw King, told reporters he appeared in good health and was “very happy" to be on his way home. He was able to speak with his family after his release from North Korea.

His release followed months of intense diplomacy, the US officials said, adding that no concessions were made to the North in exchange for King.

"This incident, to our minds, demonstrates that keeping lines of communication open even when ties are strained is a really important thing to do and can deliver results," one senior administration official said.

"We, again, stand by ready for any further diplomacy (with North Korea) that might be possible."

Also Read: North Korea remains silent on apparent detention of US Army soldier who illegally crossed border

Miller said he did not view King's return as a sign of a wider breakthrough with North Korea and that China had not served as a mediator in the matter, but rather as a transit point for the soldier.

China's embassy in Washington did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Jonathan Franks, spokesperson for King's mother, Claudine Gates, said: "Ms. Gates will be forever grateful to the United States Army and all its interagency partners for a job well done."

King's uncle, Myron Gates, told ABC News in August that his nephew, who is Black, experienced racism during his military deployment, and that after he spent time in a South Korean jail, he did not sound like himself.

Private Travis King, who joined the US army in January 2021, was accused of two assault incidents while in South Korea. According to court records, he admitted guilt in one of the assault cases and was also charged with damaging a police car during an incident involving offensive language directed at Koreans. Additional disciplinary actions were pending for him upon his return to the United States.

After completing his military detention, King was at the airport, expecting to be transported to his home unit in the United States by the US military. However, instead of proceeding with this plan, he left the airport and participated in a tour of the border region. During this tour, despite efforts by South Korean and US guards to prevent him, he made a dash across the border.

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According to a US official, the military intends to assess King, guide him through a reintegration process, and eventually reunite him with his family in the United States before considering any administrative measures. However, the official did not provide a straightforward response regarding whether King would be subjected to a court martial.

A different US official said King was heading to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, which is located at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. It is the same base that treated basketball star Brittney Griner in December last year after a prisoner swap with Russia ended her 10 months in Russian detention.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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Published: 28 Sep 2023, 06:19 AM IST
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