North Korea has reported the detention of an active-duty US soldier – the man crossed the strictly closed border from the South Korean side without permission, the BBC writes.
The soldier was on an organized tour of the UN-administered demilitarized zone, and the incident occurred at a time when relations with North Korea are particularly strained. The USA has recommended its citizens avoid going to a communist country.
A high-level US commander stated that the soldier acted deliberately but without authorization, and the incident is also being investigated by US forces.
It is not known whether the American has gone to North Korea to seek asylum or hopes to return.
North Korea has yet to comment.
The Pentagon has identified the arrested soldier as Private 2nd Class Travis King, and he has been serving in the army since January 2021. King is a reconnaissance specialist. The Associated Press reports that King was detained in South Korea for the assault and was awaiting disciplinary action.
According to the BBC’s US partner CBS News, Private King went through security at the Seoul airport and was then spotted leaving the terminal to visit the demilitarized zone where he crossed the border. An eyewitness who also took part in the tour told CBS that they were looking at a building near the border, in the village of Panmunjom when the man started laughing and ran through the buildings. The tourist added that at first, he thought it was a bad joke.
The UN, which administers the demilitarized zone, has indicated that its representatives have contacted the North Korean army and are trying to secure the soldier’s release.
It is currently unknown where exactly and under what conditions King is being held.
The Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea is one of the most heavily armed places in the world. It is lined with mines, and the area is surrounded by electric and barbed wire fences, and countless surveillance cameras. Armed guards are on alert 24 hours a day.
Escape through the demilitarized zone is extremely rare and very dangerous. North Korea closed its borders in 2020, when the pandemic took over the world, and they have not been opened until now.
The last time a soldier crossed the border was in 2017. Then a North Korean soldier crosses the demarcation line first by car, then by running. 40 shots were fired at him, but the soldier survived.
The detainign of the US soldier has caused serious political headaches for President Joe Biden.
Relations between the US and North Korea escalated in 2017, when an American student arrested in the communist-ruled country was returned home in a coma, and later died. The young man had tried to steal a propaganda sign, and his family blames the North Korean authorities.
During the presidency of Donald Trump in 2018, three US citizens were released, however, in general, the talks between the two countries did not have a great impact on improving relations. Since then, North Korea has regularly conducted various weapons tests.
A US soldier was detained on the same day that a US submarine docked in South Korea. It is specially designed to be able to fight the nuclear threats posed by North Korea.
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