WASHINGTON. It was released soldier Travis King who had been a prisoner in North Korea since July 18th after crossing the Demilitarized Zone border into South Korea while there with a group of tourists. An episode whose contours are still unclear. The 23-year-old soldier was taken into custody by American diplomats and will return home shortly. This was announced by the White House, which thanked the Swedish government for giving protection and political cover to the negotiations and China for facilitating King’s transfer from North Korea to China. There he was welcomed by American envoys.
President Biden spoke with the family of the 23-year-old who, according to an Administration official, “is in good health.” Biden has not yet spoken to him.
Details of the operation that led to the release of the American soldier are scarce. Some officials called the operation “intense and complex.” Several government agencies were involved. The situation for Travis came to an end at the beginning of September when, after exchanges mediated by the Swedish government, Washington received confirmation that the North Korean counterpart was available to continue negotiations. At that point the contacts intensified further. Until the release yesterday morning when Travis was taken across the northern Korean border into Chinese territory. Only when he was handed over to the US authorities was the news disclosed.
The White House sources responded with a firm “no” to the question whether Washington had made any concessions to Kim Jong-Un’s regime and specified that China’s role was limited to that of “facilitating the transport” of the soldier. Therefore, no mediation task for Beijing. In a statement released after the liberation was secured, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, in addition to “thanking Sweden for its role as representative of the United States in North Korea”, underlined what Beijing had done. The comment released by the Pentagon is identical in tone and devoid of details. American sources everywhere have highlighted that the “focus is on the man’s health conditions” and the attention paid to his return to the family. As for what happens next, reintegration into the armed forces or otherwise, everyone is tight-lipped and a decision will be “made when he recovers”.
Surely he will be asked several questions about the reason for a gesture that seemed incomprehensible.
The Pyongyang regime gave its version: “Travis King confessed to having illegally interfered” in North Korea due to “his discomfort with the inhumane mistreatment and racial discrimination of the US army and American society”. The expulsion, explained the official agency, “took place according to the law”. In August, Myron Gates, an uncle of Travis King, told ABC that his nephew had experienced racism during his service in the military and that after time in a South Korean prison he no longer seemed like himself.” The soldier was arrested for punching and kicking a South Korean police car. He had spent 47 days in prison. For this reason he was awaiting further disciplinary measures in the United States.
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