OAN’s Roy Francis
6:37 AM – tuesday, July 18, 2023
An American citizen has been detained in North Korea after crossing the border into the North without authorization, the Untied Nations Command announced on Tuesday.
“A U.S. National on a JSA orientation tour crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” U.N. Command said in a statement. “We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident.”
The American has been identified as Travis King, a private second class in the United States Army according to South Korea’s Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, which was citing the South Korean army, however the newspaper later deleted the name.
King was taking part in a tour of the Joint Security Area on the demilitarized zone (DMZ) border that separates North and South Korea. King reportedly crossed into the North around 3:30 p.m. local time.
A witness from the same tour group told CBS News that the group had just visited one of the buildings at the site when the King “gives out a loud ‘ha ha ha,’ and just runs in between some buildings.”
The witness explained that the group along with the event organizer did not react immediately thinking it was “a bad joke,” however, when King did not return “everybody reacted and things got crazy.”
“I thought it was a bad joke at first, but when he didn’t come back,” the witness said. “I realized it wasn’t a joke, and then everybody reacted and things got crazy.”
The witness said that after King crossed the border, everyone was taken back to the Freedom House to give their statement and then to take the bus out of the area.
“I’m telling you this because it actually hit me quite hard,” the witness said. “It was on the way back in the bus, and we got to one of the checkpoints…. Someone said we were 43 going in and 42 coming back.”
The detention of King comes at a time of high tensions in the area as a U.S. nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine has arrived in South Korea in a warning to the North over its recent military activities.
North Korea has been increasing the testing of its missiles which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The latest test by the North included a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which was launched last week.
South Korea Defense Ministry did not have any information regarding the detention of the America soldier by the North.
The U.S. State Department also bans U.S. citizens from entering North Korea “due to the continuing serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of US nationals.”
The ban on travel to North Korea was implemented after the detention of college student Otto Warmbier who was detained while on a tour of the country in 2015. In 2017, he was released back into U.S. custody in a coma, and died days later.
This is developing story
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