Private 2nd Class Travis King had gone through airport security when he was being sent home from South Korea for disciplinary reasons. He still somehow managed to get out of the airport and join a civilian tour of the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea.
As he left the tour group behind, he reportedly let out a loud laugh as he fled. He is now in North Korean custody, according to US officials.
King had just been released from prison where he had been held on assault charges and was facing further military disciplinary action in the US.
King, who is in his early 20s, was escorted to the airport to be returned to Fort Bliss, Texas, but instead of getting on the plane, he left and joined a tour of the Korean border village of Panmunjom, where he ran across the edge.
As he crossed the demilitarized zone (DMZ), he let out a loud “ha ha ha,” a witness said.
King crossed the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
He had joined a group taking a tour of the Joint Security Area, the border village in the DMZ that separates the two Koreas, which is heavily guarded by soldiers from both sides.
The UN Command in a statement said: “A US citizen on a JSA (Joint Security Area) orientation tour crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).”
Authorities said that “we are working with the KPA (North Korean Army) counterparts to resolve this incident.”
A US official told CBS News that the service member was able to return and join the border tour after clearing airport security.
According to the local press, a foreigner crossed the border at 3:27 p.m. local time (06:27 GMT).
US Forces Korean Public Affairs Colonel Isaac Taylor said The independent: “A US service member on a JSA orientation tour deliberately and without authorization crossed the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We believe that he is currently in DPRK custody and we are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident.”
Bryce Dubee, an Army spokesperson, shared the following information about Mr. King: “PV2 Travis T. King is a 19D (knight scout) in the Regular Army from January 2021 to present. He has no displays. During his rotation from the Korean force, he was originally assigned to the 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division and is currently administratively attached to the 1st Battalion, 12th 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. His awards include the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal, and the Overseas Service Ribbon.”
“This man makes a loud ‘ha ha ha’ and just runs between some buildings”
A person who said they witnessed what happened and was taking part in the tour along with the US soldier told CBS News that they had visited one of the buildings in the area when “this guy makes a loud ‘ha ha ha’ and just run between some buildings.”
US Soldier Crossed into North Korea ‘Unauthorized’, Defense Secretary Confirms
“At first I thought it was a bad joke, but when it didn’t come back, I realized it wasn’t a joke, and then everyone reacted and things went crazy,” they told the outlet.
The witness told the network that no North Korean soldiers could be seen where the man was running, adding that they had been told no one had been present since the pandemic when North Korea tried to fully close its borders.
The witness said that after the man crossed the border, the tour group was taken to Freedom House to give statements and then to their bus.
‘We were 43 entering and 42 returning’
“I’m telling you this because he actually hit me quite a bit,” the witness told CBS News. “It was on the way back on the bus, and we arrived at one of the checkpoints…Someone said there were 43 of us going in and 42 coming back.”
An anonymous official said the washington post that: “This was a deliberate decision on the part of the crossing service member.”
An anonymous Pentagon official told NPR that the soldier was in civilian clothes when the incident occurred and was facing disciplinary action in the US.
A woman who said she was part of the tour group said they were at the last stop when she heard the loud “ha ha ha” and then saw the man, who had spent the day with the group, running “between two of the buildings and to the other side”.
“It took everyone a second to react and understand what had really happened,” he wrote on Facebook in a since-deleted post, according to NPR. “Then we were ordered to go inside and through Freedom House and run back to our military bus.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters Tuesday that “I am absolutely concerned about the well-being of our troops.”
Area ‘full of landmines, surrounded by electric fences and barbed wire and surveillance cameras’
The DMZ, one of the most heavily fortified places in the world, is littered with land mines, surrounded by electric and barbed wire fences and surveillance cameras.
While there are very few cases of Americans or South Koreans defecting to the north, more than 30,000 North Koreans are believed to have crossed the border south since the 1950s.
Washington barred US citizens from entering North Korea “due to the continuing serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of US citizens.”
“The US government is unable to provide emergency services to US citizens in North Korea, as it has no diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea,” the US travel advisory for North Korea reads. North.
The death of American student Otto Warmbier
The ban was put in place after American college student Otto Warmbier was detained by the North while touring the country in 2015. He died in 2017, days after being released from prison and returning to the United States in a coma.
Panmunjom, located within the 248 km long (154 mi) DMZ, was created at the end of the Korean War in 1953. The area has been the site of numerous talks and is a popular tourist spot.
In November 2017, North Korean soldiers fired 40 rounds as one of their colleagues ran south. The soldier received five hits and was later rescued from under a pile of leaves on the south side of Panmunjom. He is now in South Korea.
Former US President Donald Trump met his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-Un at the DMZ in June 2019.
The arrest comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea as Pyongyang scrambles to fulfill its nuclear aspirations.
Washington deployed a nuclear-armed submarine to its ally South Korea for the first time in 40 years as officials from both countries met in Seoul to discuss strengthening their nations’ deterrence capabilities against the North.
Ohio class uss kentucky The submarine arrived at Busan port on Tuesday afternoon, the South’s Defense Ministry said. It is the first visit by a nuclear-armed US submarine to the South since the 1980s, he added.
Regular visits by US nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines to the South was one of the agreements reached by the two countries in April. They also agreed to establish a bilateral Nuclear Consultative Group and expand military exercises.