Pentagon confirms North Korea has responded to concerns about runaway US soldier
Stars and Stripes August 2, 2023
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — North Korea has responded to inquiries about the fate of Army Pvt. Travis King, according to the Pentagon, but has not disclosed further information about the soldier who dashed across the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas last month.
“As you’ve heard us say previously, U.N. Command did communicate or provide some communication via well-established communication channels through the Joint Security Agency,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday. “I can confirm [North Korea] has responded to [U.N. Command] but I don’t have any substantial progress to read out.”
The command did not immediately respond to a request for comment by phone Thursday.
Ryder’s comments echo that of British Lt. Gen. Andrew Harrison, the U.N. Command deputy commander, during a news conference in Seoul on July 24.
“The primary concern for us is Private King's welfare,” he said.
Harrison said the command and North Korea were in contact but declined to go into specifics due to the possibility his comments “could prejudice that process.”
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency has yet to issue a statement on King’s status since his dash across the border on July 18.
The 23-year-old cavalry scout spent six weeks in a South Korean prison for assault and was facing more administrative punishment in the United States, military officials have said.
King was released from prison on July 10 and a few days later was booked on the flight back to his home station at Fort Bliss, Texas. Military escorts saw King to the airport’s security checkpoint — the farthest point that they could go without a ticket — but did not actually see him get on the plane.
King was part of a U.N. Command-sponsored tour group at the heavily guarded border when he “willfully and without authorization” ran into North Korea’s section of the Joint Security Area, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters the next day.