Seoul – A American soldier He was detained in South Korea for two months and was reportedly detained in North Korea on Wednesday Crossed the heavily guarded border without permission between the two countries, officials said.
Private Second Class, identified by the U.S. Army months before defecting to North Korea Travis Kingfaced A South Korean court sentenced him to two counts of assault and a fine for damaging a police carAccording to the court order and a lawyer representing him.
The US military was doing everything possible on Wednesday to establish the whereabouts of the 23-year-old King, leading Washington to a new crisis in its relations with the nuclear-armed state.
King’s motivations for the dangerous crossing are unclear. According to US officials, He had completed a sentence of detention in South Korea for an unspecified crime And the US military took him to the airport Return to your originating unitWhen he apparently decided to join a tour to the North Korean border.
The king appealed Offender who attacked and destroyed public property It was related to an incident in October, and was fined 5 million won (about $4,000) by the Seoul Western District Court on Feb. 8, according to a copy of the ruling reviewed by Reuters.
Two US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the soldier was ordered to face disciplinary action by the US Army.
Also, on September 25 last year, King punched a man in the face multiple times at a nightclubBut the case was settled by a court in Seoul.
Two weeks later, on October 8, police officers responded to another report of an altercation involving King and attempted to question him. According to the court document, he continued his “aggressive behavior” by not answering police questions. The police put him in the back seat of their patrol car, where he shouted profanities and profanities at Koreans, the Korean military, and the Korean police. During his rampage, he repeatedly kicked the door of the vehicle, causing approximately 584,000 won ($460) worth of damage, according to the verdict.
The court approved it The defendant pleaded guilty, had no prior criminal record, and was awarded one million won ($790) to repair the vehicle.He was considered in his favor in the sentence.
A spokesman for US Forces Korea (USFK) declined to say whether King was being held in South Korea or in US military custody. A lawyer representing him told Reuters at the time that King had been in US military custody in Pyeongtaek since the October case.
The attorney, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said he did not know King’s custody status or whereabouts after February.
said Claudine Gates, King’s mother ABC News He was shocked to hear that his son had entered North Korea. “I can’t imagine Travis doing that.”He pointed out.
American and South Korean guards shouted “catch him” When he struggled unsuccessfully to stop American forward Travis King, who was speeding into North Korea, A New Zealand woman who took part in the same excursion to the border recalled on Wednesday.
“Everything happened so quickly”Sarah Leslie was photographed walking with about 40 tourists minutes before King embarked on a crazy trip to North Korea.
The group had emerged from one of the blue buildings that line the border between the two Koreas and are used for negotiations, when King suddenly ran north between the structures, he said.
“Someone ran really close to me and I thought: What’s going on?’ said Leslie. “I didn’t think anybody would really want to go to North Korea, so I assumed it was some kind of maneuver.”
Meanwhile, North Korea remained silent King, the first American to be detained in the isolated nation in nearly five years, test-fired short-range missiles at his latest weapons show on Wednesday.
Missiles launched by Pyongyang on Wednesday morning were a The deployment of a US nuclear submarine in South Korea was protested The day before and were not related to the King incident.
“North Korea is likely to use the soldier for propaganda purposes in the short term and as a bargaining chip in the medium to long term.”said Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies in South Korea.
The U.S. government worked with its North Korean counterparts to “resolve the incident.”said White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre. The Washington-led United Nations Command said on Tuesday that the soldier was believed to be in North Korean custody.
“We are closely monitoring and investigating the situation.”The US Defense Secretary added. Lloyd AustinHe stressed at a press conference held at the Pentagon His greatest concern was the welfare of the soldier. “It will unfold over the next few days and hours and we’ll keep you posted.”
Washington and Pyongyang do not know They have no diplomatic relationsThey will have conversations. Sweden, which has an embassy in the North Korean capital, has in the past provided consular services to other Americans detained in the country. But Swedish diplomatic staff have not returned to North Korea since the country closed its borders and ordered all foreigners to leave due to Covid-19 in early 2020.
Some observers say countries could contact the UN in New York through Panmunjom or the North Korean embassy.
There are few cases of South Koreans or Americans defecting to North Korea More than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea To escape the political repression and economic problems since the end of the Korean War (1950-1953).
Located within the 248-kilometer demilitarized zone, Panmunjom has been under joint UN command and North Korean administration since it was created at the end of the war. It has seen some bloodshed and gunfire, but it is also the scene of diplomatic meetings and a popular tourist destination.
AP and Reuters agencies
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