Travis King: North Korea claims a US soldier defected due to racism in the army.
On July 18, the 23-year-old private raced across the border from South Korea while on a guided tour.
According to official media, Private King acknowledged to illegally crossing the border and seeking refuge in the north.
Washington said it could not corroborate Pyongyang’s accusations, which are its first public comments on the subject.
Concerns have grown for the safety of the US soldier, who has not been heard from or seen since crossing.
Negotiations on the Korean peninsula have been ongoing between North Korean authorities and the UN command.
In response to the North Korean report, a Pentagon spokesman stated on Wednesday that their top objective was to bring Private King home safely “via all available channels.”
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North Korea has not stated how it intends to handle Private King, but has stated that the soldier admitted to having “illegally” entered the nation.
The state news agency KCNA did not indicate whether he was being prosecuted or punished. Analysts believe he might be treated as a victim and asylum seeking or as a criminal.
There was no mention of his present whereabouts or condition in the report.
KCNA said that “during the investigation, Travis King confessed that he had decided to come over to the DPRK [North Korea] because he harbored ill feelings against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US Army.”
“He also expressed his willingness to seek refuge in the DPRK or a third country, expressing disillusionment with the unequal American society.”
Private King is a reconnaissance expert who has been in the army since January 2021 and is now on rotation in South Korea.
Before crossing the border, he was detained in South Korea for two months on assault allegations and released on July 10.
He was meant to go back to the United States to face disciplinary proceedings, but he escaped and joined a tour of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), which separates North and South Korea.
The DMZ is one of the world’s most strongly defended locations, encircled by electric and barbed wire barriers and monitored by security cameras. Although armed guards are meant to be on duty 24 hours a day, witnesses claim there were no North Korean soldiers present when Private King was run over.
His relatives earlier informed US media that he had described racism in the army. They also claimed that his mental state had deteriorated prior to his abduction.
“It feels like I’m in a big nightmare,” Claudine Gates said, adding that the family was yearning for answers.
North Korea, one of the few remaining ostensibly communist regimes, has long been a highly secretive and secluded culture.
Its administration, led by Kim Jong-un, is also accused of widespread violations of human rights.
Analysts believe Travis King’s defection has aided North Korea’s anti-US message at a time when ties between the two nations are at an all-time low.
Pyongyang will have welcomed the opportunity to expose racism and other flaws in American society, especially considering the international condemnation it receives for human rights violations.
For the first time since 2017, the United Nations Security Council will meet on Thursday to review the human rights situation in North Korea.
North Korean media issued a statement on the UN conference, which will be led by the US, prior to its comments on Travis King.
“Not content with promoting racial discrimination and gun-related crimes, the United States has imposed unethical human rights standards on other countries,” the report stated.