An American crossed the inner-Korean border without permission and was apparently arrested on the North Korean side. As the United Nations command in South Korea announced, the man is probably in the custody of the authorities. He took part in a tour of the Panmunjom settlement in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Several South Korean media reports, citing the local military, that the person is a US Army soldier. There is no official confirmation of this.
The armistice after the Korean War was signed in Panmunjom in 1953. Since then, both states have been separated by a demilitarized zone, which is regularly visited by tourists from South Korea. The areas bordering on these strips are closely guarded. In recent years, Americans have repeatedly entered North Korean territory without permission. There they were usually sentenced to several years in prison and only released after lengthy negotiations.
South Korea is one of the US allies. In contrast, the communist north, with China at its side, counts the United States among its greatest enemies. The US government banned its citizens from entering North Korea six years ago in response to the Otto Warmbier case. As a member of a tourist group, the American student had legally headed for the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, where he was arrested for alleged theft. While in custody, he fell into a coma under mysterious circumstances. He died a few days after his release in June 2017 at the age of 22.
Ice Age on the Korean Peninsula
Relations between North and South Korea and between North Korea and the USA are now at an all-time low. The government in Washington had announced that it would station a US Navy submarine armed with nuclear weapons in South Korea, which North Korea strongly condemned. It is the first time since 1981 that the Navy has dispatched a nuclear-capable submarine to Korean waters. In April, Washington and Seoul agreed to strengthen South Korea’s nuclear shield.
North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Un has repeatedly threatened military escalation in the region. He announced that he would expand his own nuclear weapons arsenal “exponentially”. North Korea is violating United Nations resolutions with its missile and nuclear program. The West fears the country, whose borders have been sealed since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, could conduct another nuclear weapons test in the near future – the first such attempt since 2017.
jj/uh (dpa, rtr)