North Korea finally offers brief response over missing US soldier Travis King

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North Korea finally offers brief response over missing US soldier Travis King
North Korea finally offers brief response over missing US soldier Travis King

North Korea has “responded” for the first time to efforts by UN officials to have an American soldier who ran over its border returned.

Last month, Travis King, a US Army private, crossed into the rogue state during a guided tour of the demilitarised zone.

“KPA has responded to the United Nations Command with regards to PV2 King,” the United Nations Command said in a statement, using acronyms for the North Korean army and King’s rank as a private

“In order not to interfere with our efforts to get him home, we will not go into details at this time,” the multinational military force added.

North Korea finally offers brief response over missing US soldier Travis King rriddqixxiqezinvA TV screen shows a file image of American soldier Travis King during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea (AP)
North Korea finally offers brief response over missing US soldier Travis KingPicture of Travis King from the 2019 Washington Park High School yearbook handout (Washington Park High School/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock)

Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said North Korrea only acknowledged the UN Command’s request for information about King but stopped short of offering details about him.

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“I can confirm that the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] has responded to United Nations Command, but I don’t have any substantial progress to read out,” Ryder said.

When asked, he said that North Korea’s message back to the UN Command was just “an acknowledgement” of its inquiry.

The 23-year-old soldier, who served as a cavalry scout with the Korean Rotational Force, sprinted across the border with South Korea on July 18 while on a tour of the demilitarised zone with a group of tourists.

The troubled private faced two allegations of assault in South Korea, eventually pleading guilty to one case of assault and destroying public property for damaging a police car during a profanity-laced tirade.

King served a sentence of hard labour at the Cheonan correctional facility from May 24 to July 10 in lieu of paying a fine.

He has been due to board a flight back to the States to face military disciplinary action at Fort Bliss, Texas.

However, after checking in, he failed to board the plane and slipped back out of the airport, later joining the tour.

North Korea finally offers brief response over missing US soldier Travis KingUN Command deputy commander Lieutenant General Andrew Harrison has said dialogue is open (AFP via Getty Images)

US authorities have previously said he crossed over "wilfully, of his own volition."

He laughed as he crossed the border, witnesses said. Court documents show he had damaged a police car and had been locked up at a detention facility in Seoul.

Officials from both sides of the border were talking via a mechanism established under the Korean War armistice.

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Swedish tourist Mikaela Johansson, said on a Facebook post she was on the tour at the time as the soldier.

“To our right, we hear a loud HA-HA-HA and one guy from OUR GROUP that has been with us all day- runs in between two of the buildings and over to the other side!!” she wrote.

"It took everybody a second to react and grasp what had actually happened, then we were ordered into and through Freedom House and running back to our military bus."

According to US officials, he had just been released from prison where he had been held on assault charges and was facing military disciplinary actions in the US.

"A US National on a JSA orientation tour crossed, without authorisation, the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," the United Nations Command said on Twitter. "We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident."

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin previously said he believes the US soldier is in custody in North Korea.

"We're very early in this event and so there's a lot that we're still trying to learn," he said. "What we do know is that one of our service members who was on a tour wilfully and without authorisation crossed the military demarcation line. We believe that he is in DPRK custody.

Christopher Bucktin

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