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North Korea Provides First Official Verification That US Soldier Has Been Detained

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North Korea Provides First Official Verification That US Soldier Has Been Detained

The first official confirmation from North Korea that it has captured a US soldier who escaped into the nation last month came in the form of a propaganda statement attributing the army private’s unsubstantiated criticism of the US to him.

The statement was labeled as “100% North Korean propaganda” by an expert.

Private Travis King’s remarks on his native country were not immediately confirmed to have been true.

On July 18, Pte King—a former South Korean soldier who was visiting a border village as a civilian—sprinted across the border and was apprehended, making him the first confirmed American to be held in the North in almost five years.

According to an investigation cited by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Pte. King informed them he chose to infiltrate North Korea because he “had grievances against racial discrimination and inhumane treatment within the US Army.”

According to the article, Pte. King reportedly stated that he might be open to seeking asylum in North Korea or another nation since he “was disillusioned at the unequal American society.”

Its content is carefully selected to match North Korea’s official narrative that the United States is a terrible foe. KCNA is a propaganda source and an official voice of leader Kim Jong Un’s administration.

According to the article, North Korea will keep looking into Pte. King’s “illegal” admission.

It is impossible to confirm the veracity of the remarks ascribed to Pte. King in North Korea’s official media.

North Korea is charged with exploiting foreign captives to force diplomatic concessions, according to the United States, South Korea, and other countries. After being freed, some foreign detainees claimed that they had been coerced into admitting guilt while they were still in North Korean captivity.

According to a representative of the US Defense Department, the US lacks the means to independently verify North Korea’s assertions regarding Pte. King. The representative claimed that the Pentagon was attempting to repatriate Pte King through all feasible means.

“This is 100% North Korean propaganda in its element. King, as an American citizen held in North Korea, has no sway in how (North Korea) chooses to cast its narrative,” said Soo Kim, an expert with Virginia-based consultancy LMI and a former CIA analyst.

“As for King’s release, his fate rests in North Korea’s hands. Perhaps the regime will try to ‘bargain’ King’s life in exchange for financial concessions from the US. More than likely, negotiations won’t be easy, and terms will be dictated by Pyongyang,” she said.

The soldier’s family said his mother, Claudine Gates, is appealing to North Korea to treat her son humanely.

“She’s a mom worried about her son and would be grateful for a phone call from him,” family spokesman Jonathan Franks said in the statement.

“Lastly, she has been in touch with the Army this evening and appreciates a (Defence Department) statement that it remains focused on bringing Travis home.”

Before defecting to South Korea in 2016, Tae Yongho served as a minister at the North Korean embassy in London. Tae Yongho predicted that North Korea would eventually release Pte. King because it did not immediately state that it would accept him as a refugee in the North and instead mentioned resettlement in a third country.

The fact that Pte King was labeled an illegal immigrant by North Korea rather than someone who “voluntarily” entered the North was another point made by Mr. Tae, a former senator who is now a lawmaker in South Korea.

Mr. Tae previously stated that North Korea wouldn’t want to detain a low-ranking soldier like Pte King for an extended period because he wouldn’t be able to give it with high-profile US intelligence and would cost a lot of money and resources to maintain.

As tensions between the two former adversaries of war have grown, some commentators have speculated that North Korea may attempt to link Pte. King’s release to a reduction in US military cooperation with South Korea.

Since the start of last year, North Korea has conducted more than 100 weapons tests, many of which were done to provide warnings on the increase of US-South Korean military drills. The United States and its allies will start their massive annual drills on Monday, which North Korea sees as a practice invasion.

In response to North Korea’s escalating nuclear threats, the leaders of the United States, South Korea, and Japan are also expected to unveil plans for increased military cooperation on ballistic missile defense when they gather for a trilateral summit at Camp David on Friday, according to US sources.

North Korea criticized US-led plans for an open UN Security Council meeting on its human rights record on Tuesday, calling them “despicable” and merely intended to advance Washington’s geopolitical objectives.

The vice foreign minister of North Korea, Kim Son Gyong, referred to the United States as an awful “empire of evils” and stated that the council must first address the American human rights issue.

Mr. Kim accused the US of encouraging racial discrimination, crimes using firearms, abuse of children, and forced labor in a statement reported by official media.

About 28,000 US forces were stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against potential action from North Korea, including Pte. King, a 23-year-old soldier.

He was meant to be traveling to Fort Bliss, Texas after being released from prison in South Korea for an assault conviction at the time he joined the civilian tour and crossed the border.

According to US officials, he has been labeled Awol, which carries a range of punishments including brig time, pay forfeiture, and dishonorable discharge depending on how long the person was gone and whether they were arrested or returned on their own.

Since the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, concluded in a truce rather than a peace treaty, the United States and North Korea are still formally at war.

Although they have no diplomatic relations and Sweden has previously assisted Americans in need of consular assistance, since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, it is said that Swedish diplomats have not visited North Korea.

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