(trendingpoliticsnews) – New details have emerged about the mysterious capture of an American soldier, Pvt. Travis King, in North Korea. The US Army has identified King, a cavalry scout who joined the military in January 2021, as the soldier who crossed the demarcation line into North Korea.
King had been on a tour of a border area as a civilian when he crossed into North Korea, following an unclear sequence of events. This incident comes at a time of fraught diplomacy and rising military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. US Forces Korea spokesperson Col. Isaac Taylor stated that King “willfully and without authorization” crossed the line during a regular tour of the Joint Security Area (JSA), a section of the buffer zone between North and South Korea.
King’s motive for crossing the border remains unclear. He was set to be administratively separated from the US Army after facing disciplinary action for assault. His mother, Claudine Gates, was shocked at the news, stating that she couldn’t see her son doing anything like that to ABC News.
Prior to his defection, King had spent 50 days in a detention facility in South Korea, following an assault incident involving a South Korean national or nationals. He was transferred to US military police by South Korean authorities after an investigation.
King was escorted to the airport to return to the United States, but he did not board his flight. It remains unclear how he was then able to join the tour of the JSA, which lies along the 160-mile-long and 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone (DMZ) that has separated North and South Korea for decades.
The JSA is the most recognizable part of the DMZ, and tours of the area are open to the public and organized by the United Nations Command, which secures the area. Unlike most of the heavily fortified zone, the actual border line between North and South Korea at the JSA does not have a physical barrier.
At the time of his rotation in South Korea, King was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas. King has no deployments on his record. His military awards include routine decorations provided to soldiers with his rank and experience – the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal, and the Overseas Service Ribbon.
The incident has drawn the attention of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and State Department spokesperson Matt Miller, who have expressed concern about King’s welfare and are closely monitoring the situation.
“We will stay in close coordination with them over the next hours, and if there are steps that would be useful for the State Department to take, we of course will not hesitate to take those,” Miller stated.
This incident comes at a time when North Korea has been ramping up tests of potentially nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles, causing concern among the US and its Asian allies. The same day King crossed the border, a nuclear-capable US submarine was making a port call at the South Korean port of Busan for the first time since the early 1980s.