The 23-year-old, who was identified as Travis King, illegally entered the demilitarized zone on Tuesday and is currently presumed to be in North Korean custody.
International media released new details on Wednesday about the United States citizen who crossed the demilitarized zone on the border between South Korea and North Korea without permission on Tuesday.
“A United States citizen participating in a Joint Armed Forces orientation tour crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We believe that is currently in custody of the DPRK,” the United Nations Command (UNC) wrote.
“I can’t imagine Travis doing something like that”
The 23-year-old man was identified as Travis King, ABC reports. A US official revealed to the outlet that before crossing the border, King had passed 47 days in a detention center South Korean after a dispute with the locals. After his release, he spent time at a US base in South Korea and was due to fly back to the Fort Bliss military base in Texas.
Instead of boarding his flight, however, he headed for the demilitarized zone, a buffer zone that protects the truce boundary between the two Koreas.
“I can’t imagine Travis doing something like that.“, the young man’s mother, Claudine Gates, told the outlet. She noted that the last time she heard from her son was “a few days ago” when she told him that she would return to the Fort Bliss base soon. She added that she just wants “him to come back to home”.
What do they say from Washington?
The US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austinbriefly referred to the incident at a press conference held on Tuesday and assured that the authorities were closely monitoring the situation and investigating the circumstances of the event. “What worries me the most is the well-being of our troops. We will continue to focus on that,” he declared.
For his part, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said during a briefing that it was clear the soldier had crossed the border “by his own will“, but did not indicate if it was a defection. He also assured that the State Department had not contacted North Korea. However, he assumed yes the Pentagon had done it.
The US President’s press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told reporters that “the White House, the Department of Defense, the Department of State and also the UN are collaborating to get more information [sobre el destino del soldado] and resolve this situation.