WASHINGTON—A troubled U.S. soldier who had been forced home from South Korea “burst” across the border into North Korea, joining a group of tourists heading to the DMZ, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Private Travis King was not handcuffed when he was escorted as far as possible by the military police. Incheon Airport is a commercial airport about an hour and a half away from the DMZ that separates South Korea. It is a communist country, a senior government official told NBC News.
But instead of making his way to the gate alone and flying back to the United States, King headed to Panmunjom with a group that had just arrived. Panmunjom is a joint security area in the middle of a tense border area guarded by North and North Korea. Korean soldiers.
Pentagon officials said earlier that when King departed, UN security forces escorting the tour tracked him down but did not arrive in time.
king, The Associated Press reported that he had just been released from a South Korean jail where he was being held on assault charges and was undergoing additional military disciplinary action when he returned to Fort Bliss, Texas, after enlisting in January 2021.
NBC News has yet to confirm the report.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters earlier that he was still figuring out what exactly happened.
“You know, the first thing I can confirm is that we’re in the very early stages of this event, so there’s a lot we’re still learning,” Austin said. rice field. “But what we do know is that one of the military personnel on the tour intentionally crossed the line without permission.
King is now in the hands of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Austin said.
“Therefore, we are closely monitoring and investigating the situation and are working to notify the soldier’s next of kin and address this incident,” Austin said.
The White House is also monitoring the situation amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program, but has yet to comment.
It is believed to be the first time in half a century that a U.S. soldier has defected to North Korea. The last thing I did was James Dresnockwhen he was court-martialed in August 1962, he was threatened with a court-martial.
Tours of the area have been around since the 1960s and are organized by private companies. took your own tour for that staff.
The area, located just 30 miles north of South Korea’s capital, Seoul, is of great historical importance as the place where the armistice was signed in 1953 to end the Korean War.
News of King’s apparent defection came when the nuclear-powered submarine USS Kentucky arrived at South Korea’s Busan Naval Base on Tuesday.
“This visit to Busan reflects the United States’ unwavering commitment to South Korea for extended deterrence guarantees,” the USFK said in a statement.
Andrea Mitchell, Peter Alexander and Courtney Cube reporting from Washington, Patrick Smith reporting from London.
Corky Shemasco contributed.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/north-korea-holds-us-national-straying-border-united-nations-rcna94815 US soldiers suspected of straying across border and detained by North Korea