US man in N. Korean custody

July 18, 2023
North Korea

I’m absolutely foremost concerned about the welfare of our troop, and so we will remain focused on this and, again, this will develop in the next several days and hours.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on a United States soldier who walked into North Korea (a U.S.-designated State Sponsor of terrorism); U.S. and international officials believe the man is in North Korean custody.

Big Picture: While with a tour group in the Joint Security Area (an area that separates the North and South Korea and is operated by the United Nations Command), a U.S. soldier crossed the Military Demarcation Line into North Korea "willfully and without authorization," international and U.S. officials said on Tuesday. The Army has confirmed that the soldier is 23-year-old Private 2nd Class Travis King. Unnamed U.S. officials said the soldier "had been released from military detention in South Korea and was being escorted out of the country for disciplinary reasons," CBS News reports. After going through security at the airport outside of Seoul (South Korea's capital), officials said King then left the airport and later joined the border tour group; he is now the first American to be detained in North Korea in almost five years.

The U.N. Command stated, "We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA [North Korean army] counterparts to resolve this incident."

Timing: "The crossing comes at a sensitive time amid high tensions on the Korean peninsula, with the arrival of a U.S. nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine in South Korea for a rare visit in a warning to North Korea over its own military activities," Reuters explains, noting North Korea's increasing number of missile tests (incl. a test if an intercontinental ballistic missile last week).

by Jenna Lee,