The United Nations is speaking to North Korea about the fate of Travis King, an American soldier who defected


Seoul, South Korea – The deputy commander of the UN command said on Monday that talks with him had started North Korea about an American soldier who fled north across Korea’s heavily armed border last week.

General Andrew Harrison said the process began by establishing lines of communication the Common Security Space between the Koreas as part of the armistice agreement that ended fighting in the 1950–53 Korean War. He said the welfare of Pvt. Travis King remains the command’s primary concern but declined to provide further details, citing the sensitivity of the discussions.

North Korea has been publicly silent on King, who crossed the border last Tuesday when he was due to travel to Fort Bliss, Texas.

US officials have expressed concern for his well-being and have previously said North Korea is ignoring their requests for information about him.

Undated file photo obtained by Reuters shows US Army Private 2nd Class Travis King.


Harrison said he remains “optimistic” but said there was no way of knowing how the talks with North Korea will go. Civilian tours into the Common Security Zone have been suspended since King’s push across the border.

Says CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer King’s defection “could be unwelcome news for Kim Jong Un’s regime.”

Palmer points out that Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat who defected to South Korea a few years ago, wrote on Facebook that “US soldiers who have defected/defected to North Korea are inevitably a nuisance because the long-term cost-effectiveness is low” in terms of propaganda and Pyongyang’s influence over Washington and Seoul.

King’s Crossing took place at a time of high tension on the Korean peninsula, where the pace of both North Korea’s arms demonstrations and joint US military exercises have accelerated in an interplay.

Harrison’s comments came hours after the South Korean military said a nuclear-powered US submarine had arrived at a port on Jeju Island, as part of the second deployment of a major US naval facility to the Korean peninsula this month. The arrival of the USS Annapolis reinforces the Allied show of might in the fight against North Korea’s nuclear threat.

Last week, the USS Kentucky arrived in South Korea, becoming the first US nuclear-armed submarine since the 1980s. North Korea responded to its arrival in Busan by test-launching ballistic and cruise missiles, apparently to demonstrate it could launch nuclear strikes against South Korea, and deployed US naval vessels.

Between these launches, North Korea’s defense minister issued a veiled threat, insisting that docking the Kentucky in South Korea could be grounds for the North’s use of a nuclear weapon. North Korea has used similar rhetoric before, but the statement made clear just how strained ties are at the moment.

Analysts believe North Korea could wait weeks or even months to provide meaningful information about King in order to maximize influence and add urgency to US efforts to secure his release. Some say North Korea may try to wring concessions from Washington, such as making its release conditional on the United States curtailing military activities with South Korea.

The United States and South Korea have expanded joint military exercises and increased regional deployments of US strategic assets such as bombers, aircraft carriers and submarines to demonstrate their might against North Korea, which has test-launched around 100 missiles since early 2022.

The Annapolis, whose primary mission is to destroy enemy ships and submarines, is powered by a nuclear reactor but armed with conventional weapons. The Annapolis docked in Jeju primarily to load supplies, but Jang Do Young, a spokesman for the South Korean navy, said the US and South Korean militaries were discussing whether to organize training with the ship.

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