Travis King: US soldier back in American custody

North Korea says it chose to expel soldier who crossed the demilitarised zone in July

An image of Travis King shown during a news broadcast in South Korea. He has been expelled by North Korea, according to reports. AFP
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US soldier Travis King is back in American custody after North Korea announced it had chosen to expel him, a US official said.

North Korea's state agency reported earlier on Wednesday that it had “decided to expel Travis King, a soldier of the US Army who illegally intruded into the territory of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], under the law of the Republic”.

Travis King confessed that he illegally intruded into the territory of the DPRK as he harboured ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US Army and was disillusioned about the unequal US society,” KCNA reported.

North Korea has previously said Pvt King was “disillusioned about the unequal US society” but Washington at the time could not verify those remarks were his.

Washington had been working “multiple” diplomatic channels to try to secure Pvt King's release, a senior administration official said.

“We have been engaged in intense diplomacy since Pvt King entered the DPRK and we have made every effort and used every available diplomatic channel to urge the DPRK to release Pvt King, and allow him to return home,” the official said.

The soldier, who was born in 2000, was transferred from North Korea to China, where he was met by US officials, adding another layer to the complex operation.

He “was transferred out of the DPRK across the DPRK border with the PRC [People's Republic of China], the PRC played a role in facilitating that transfer, but did not play another mediating role in these events,” the official added.

Sweden served as interlocutor throughout the process.

"We thank the government of Sweden for its diplomatic role serving as the protecting power for the United States in the DPRK and the government of the People’s Republic of China for its assistance in facilitating the transit of Pvt King," White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

Before he crossed the North Korean border, Pvt King had been in a South Korean jail for about two months on assault charges. Before his scheduled return to the US to face disciplinary proceedings, he joined a border tour group after going through airport security.

While on the tour on July 18, he dashed across the Joint Security Area, which separates South and North Korea.

Administration officials would not comment on whether Pvt King would be facing disciplinary charges upon his return home, stressing that the solider was “very much looking forward to being reunited with his family”.

Updated: September 28, 2023, 7:15 AM