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North Korea confirms status of detained U.S. soldier for first time


SEOUL — North Korea said Wednesday that a U.S. soldier who fled into its territory across the heavily fortified border did so because he was disillusioned with the “unequal American society.”

It is the first time North Korea has publicly acknowledged the status of Pvt. 2nd Class Travis King, who bolted into the North during a civilian tour of the Panmunjom border village last month.

King told North Korean investigators that he decided to cross into North Korea, citing his “ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army,” according to the Korea Central News Agency, a North Korean state media outlet. He also expressed his willingness to seek refuge in North Korea or a third country.

King admitted to “illegally” intruding into the North, the KCNA said, without mentioning any resulting punishment on the soldier. The state media report did not specify King’s health status or plans for his release.

The U.S. Defense Department said it could not verify North Korea’s comments on King. “We remain focused on his safe return,” Pentagon spokesman Martin Meiners said. U.S. defense officials have previously said that the American serviceman “willfully and without authorization” crossed into the North.

King is the first U.S. national known to be detained in North Korea in nearly five years. North Korea has a history of detaining foreign nationals for charges including espionage and using them as propaganda tools.


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