North Korea publicly confirms Travis King is in its territory

North Korea publicly confirmed for the first time Wednesday that Army Pvt. Travis King is in its territory.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the 23-year-old “illegally intruded” into North Korean territory when he sprinted across the guarded border between North and South Korea during a tour of the demilitarized zone in July.

King allegedly “expressed his willingness to seek refuge” in North Korea or another country, as he “harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army” and was “disillusioned at the unequal American society,” according to KCNA.

However, a Defense Department official said Tuesday that they could not verify King’s alleged comments.

“We remain focused on his safe return,” the official added. “The Department’s priority is to bring Private King home, and we are working through all available channels to achieve that outcome.”

The 23-year-old was the subject of disciplinary actions and was supposed to be returning to the U.S. to face charges when he fled across the border into North Korea. 

The U.S. has been unable to determine King’s location or well-being since he crossed the border, as North Korea has not responded to its requests for information or a dialogue, officials previously said.

“We don’t know where he is,” White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby said in late July. “We don’t know the conditions in which he’s living right now.”

“We’re still doing everything we can to try to find out his whereabouts, his well-being and condition and making it clear that we want to see him safely and quickly returned to the United States,” Kirby added at the time.

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