According to North Korea, US soldier Travis King, who crossed its border last month, “fled racism and abuse” in the United States and sought asylum in Pyongyang. Some statements that Washington takes with caution and affirms that it has not been able to verify.
The first official confirmation from North Korea has been issued that a US soldier fled to the country last month. Pyongyang released through its state media a statement by the soldier in which he criticized the United States.
Although so far there is no credible verification that these are the soldier’s true statements, one expert called the announcement “100% North Korean propaganda.”
Travis King, the soldier at the center of the diplomatic debate, was off duty in South Korea and wandered into North Korea while visiting a border town on July 18. King became the first American whose detention on North Korean soil has been confirmed in nearly five years.
The theory put forward by North Korea is that King confessed to deliberately entering the country illegally, allegedly motivated by “feelings against inhumane mistreatment and racial discrimination within the US Army.”
The report, which quotes King, claims that the soldier wanted to seek refuge in North Korea or a third country, saying he “was disillusioned by the unequal American society.” But it is impossible to verify the authenticity of the quotes attributed to King in North Korean state media.
“This is 100% North Korean propaganda. King, as a US citizen held in North Korea, has no influence on the way (North Korea) decides to launch its narrative,” said Soo Kim, an expert at the LMI consultancy, with Virginia-based, and former CIA analyst.
The state media report comes on the eve of a United Nations Security Council meeting where they will discuss human rights abuses in North Korea. For decades, Pyongyang has singled out racism in the United States and is likely to use King’s case to divert attention from the finger-pointing against him, experts say.
“North Korea is likely to highlight racism in the United States and use it as a means to counter US criticism of North Korea’s human rights situation, rather than engage in negotiations with the United States,” Lim Eul said. -chul, a professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University in South Korea.
So far, the United States has not received an official response on King’s case. This was stated by Vedant Patel, spokesman for the US State Department.
“We have raised this case through the appropriate channels that exist to send messages and communicate with the DPRK. We have done so in the course of this process and we have not obtained, other than that one confirmation message to, officials of the UN, we have not received any communication from the DPRK on this,” the official said.
What will happen to King?
Several Western countries accuse North Korea of using foreign detainees to extract diplomatic concessions. After their release, many of them said their guilty pleas in North Korean custody were made under intimidation.
“As for King’s release, his fate is in the hands of North Korea. The regime may try to ‘negotiate’ King’s life in exchange for financial concessions from the United States. Negotiations will most likely fail.” be easy and have the terms dictated by Pyongyang,” added Soo Kim.
Claudine Gates, the soldier’s mother, asked North Korea for humanitarian treatment for her son. “She is a concerned mother of her son and would appreciate a call from you,” family spokesman Jonathan Franks said in a statement. “Lastly, she has been in contact with the Army this afternoon and welcomes a statement (from the Department of Defense) that he remains focused on bringing Travis home,” he added.
Tae Yongho, who was a minister at the North Korean embassy in London before defecting in 2016, speculated that North Korea might release King, saying it is not in the country’s best interest to keep a low-ranking soldier. as King for a long time because he won’t provide high-level US intelligence.
King, 23, was part of the group of 28,000 US soldiers present in South Korea. When he crossed the border as a civilian, he was supposed to be heading to Fort Bliss, Texas, after his release in South Korea on an assault conviction.
The United States declared him AWOL, which carries a prison sentence, loss of wages or dishonorable discharge, but the severity of the punishment will depend on the time absent.
The United States and North Korea fought each other during the 1950-53 Korean War, and are technically still at war because the conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
With AP and Reuters
Source: France 24