Sun, 03 Dec 2023

Luanda, Angola - An American soldier who illegally crossed into North Korea in July arrived back in the United States early Thursday, according to a U.S. defense official.

The official said Travis King landed in San Antonio, Texas.

A senior Biden administration official told reporters Wednesday that King was transferred out of the DPRK and crossed the border to China with the help of the government of Sweden. The official said the U.S. received him in China and transferred him home.

DPRK is an acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

'We thank the government of Sweden for its diplomatic role serving as the protecting power for the United States in the DPRK and the government of the People's Republic of China for its assistance in facilitating the transit of Private King,' National security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement Wednesday.

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder praised the 'the hard work of personnel in the Army, United States Forces Korea, and across the Department of Defense to bring Private King home.'

There were no concessions given to North Korea for this exchange, a senior administration official told VOA during a briefing to reporters Wednesday.

'We're going to focus for the next several weeks for as long as it takes to get private King on good - on solid footing. And then we'll address any administrative actions that may follow after the reintegration process,' the official said.

A statement Wednesday from a representative of Claudine Gates, King's mother, said, 'Ms. Gates will be forever grateful to the United States Army and all its interagency partners for a job well done.'

Earlier Wednesday, North Korea said it was expelling King after wrapping up its final investigation of him. He was taken by North Korean soldiers in July after dashing through the Koreas' heavily militarized border.

King was facing pending administrative separation from the U.S. Army when he returned to his base in Fort Bliss, Texas, after spending time in a South Korean jail on assault charges. He was about to board a plane to the United States on July 17 when he snuck out of the airport and made it onto a civilian tour of the border complex between North and South Korea one day later.

King was taken by North Korean soldiers on duty at the Joint Security Area, KCNA reported, when the plain-clothed soldier 'deliberately intruded into the area of the DPRK side between the room for the DPRK-U.S. military contacts and the restroom of security officers along the Military Demarcation Line.'

The North's official news agency, KCNA, said Wednesday that King had harbored ill feelings over inhumane treatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. army. It added that North Korea's interim findings were that King wanted refuge in North Korea or elsewhere because of that same reason.

The Military Demarcation Line is the official border separating the two Koreas, put in place by an armistice that paused the 1950-53 Korean War, which remains without a formal end and peace treaty.

VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara and Eunice Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.

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