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U.S. has no information on defected soldier’s status

Posted July. 22, 2023 07:56,   

Updated July. 22, 2023 07:56


The U.S. government is making efforts to repatriate Private Travis King (23), a member of the U.S. Army who defected to North Korea on Monday while stationed in South Korea, but has been unable even to ascertain whether he is alive or not. North Korea has not responded to the U.S. government’s attempts to establish communication regarding this matter.

On Thursday (local time), Sabrina Singh, the deputy spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Defense, said, “We lack any information regarding his whereabouts, including the conditions under which he is being held and his current state of health. Regrettably, we haven’t been able to get any response from North Korea.”

The U.S. government is making efforts to establish contact with North Korea through multiple channels. Singh mentioned on the same day, “The White House National Security Council (NSC) is also in communication with Sweden, which has previously acted as a substitute for the U.S. consular service in Pyongyang. However, there have been no indications of North Korea's cooperation in this matter.” Singh emphasized the importance of persistent communication through both public and private means, as the primary objective remains to bring Americans, including Private Travis King, back home safely.

There are growing concerns that Private King may face a situation similar to that of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who tragically died shortly after being detained in North Korea for 17 months and then repatriated to the U.S. in 2017. Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on the same day, U.S. Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth expressed her vivid recollection of the events surrounding Warmbier's detention in North Korea, where he endured brutal treatment. She voiced her deep apprehension about how North Korea might treat Private King.

Wormuth mentioned, “I believe Private King might have developed negative feelings about Korea during his time in a Korean detention center due to the violent incident. It's possible that he wasn't thinking clearly when he decided to defect to North Korea.” Private King was arrested for being drunk and engaging in violent behavior towards civilians in Seoul in October of the previous year and was subsequently fined 5 million won. Additionally, in May, he was once again apprehended by the police for being intoxicated and damaging a parked vehicle.