American Soldier in US Custody after Expulsion from North Korea to China

A general view shows the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, South Korea, July 19, 2022. (Reuters)
A general view shows the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, South Korea, July 19, 2022. (Reuters)
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American Soldier in US Custody after Expulsion from North Korea to China

A general view shows the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, South Korea, July 19, 2022. (Reuters)
A general view shows the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, South Korea, July 19, 2022. (Reuters)

Private Travis King, the US soldier who ran into North Korea in July, is in US custody after being expelled by North Korea into China, US officials said on Wednesday.

While details on King's transfer were still scarce, the positive resolution of the King case was noteworthy given how rare diplomatic cooperation is between the United States, North Korea and China.

King, 23, made a sudden dash into North Korea from the South on July 18 while on a civilian tour of the Joint Security Area on the heavily fortified border between the neighbors and was immediately taken into North Korean custody.

His shocking case triggered heated discussions within the US government, but Washington declined to declare him a prisoner of war. Instead, North Korea appears to have treated his case like one of illegal immigration.

North Korea's KCNA state news agency said King had been expelled after admitting to entering North Korea illegally as he was "disillusioned about unequal US society."

North Korea's decision on the King matter, published by KCNA, detailed the final results of an investigation into King's July border crossing. Last month, it reported interim findings that he wanted refuge in North Korea or elsewhere because of maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US army.

"King confessed that he illegally intruded into the territory of the DPRK as he harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US army and was disillusioned about the unequal US society," KCNA said.

DPRK refers to North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Authorities have decided to expel King under the country's law, KCNA said, but did not specify how, when or to where he would be expelled.

US officials told Reuters King was already in US custody after being expelled by North Korea into China but did not offer further details ahead of an official US announcement.

The US State Department could not be immediately reached for comment. US Forces Korea and the United Nations Command did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

There have been several attempts by US soldiers stationed in South Korea to desert or defect to North Korea, but King's expulsion decision came relatively quickly. Others have spent years before being released from the reclusive country.

Jonathan Franks, spokesperson for King's mother, Claudine Gates, said: "Ms. Gates will be forever grateful to the United States Army and all its interagency partners for a job well done."

King's uncle, Myron Gates, told ABC News in August that his nephew, who is Black, was experiencing racism during his military deployment, and that after he spent time in a South Korean jail, he did not sound like himself.

King, who joined the US army in January 2021, faced two allegations of assault in South Korea. He pleaded guilty to one instance of assault and destroying public property for damaging a police car during a profanity-laced tirade against Koreans, according to court documents. He was due to face more disciplinary measures when he arrived back in the United States.

King had finished serving military detention and had been transported by the US military to the airport to return to his home unit in the United States. Instead, he left the airport and joined a tour of the border area, where he ran across despite attempts by South Korean and US guards to stop him.

Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korean studies at South Korea's Kyungnam University, said Pyongyang may have felt that any diplomatic and propaganda value in keeping King was outweighed by the likely US pressure it would face.

"It seems likely that North Korea saw little value in him as a countermeasure to a US human rights campaign against themselves by highlighting racial issues in America," he said.



Biden Battles COVID and Democrats as Crisis Grows

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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Biden Battles COVID and Democrats as Crisis Grows

President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden walks down the steps of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Joe Biden holed up at his beach house Thursday, battling both a bout of COVID and calls by senior allies for him to abandon his 2024 reelection bid.

While rival Donald Trump prepared for his star turn at the Republican National Convention, the 81-year-old US president found himself in both personal and political isolation.

The top Democrats in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both reportedly met with Biden in recent days to warn that his candidacy threatens his party's prospects in November's election.

Influential former House speaker Nancy Pelosi added to his woes by privately telling Biden he cannot win and could harm Democrats' chances of recapturing the lower chamber, CNN reported.

Several party figures were meanwhile quoted anonymously by the Axios news outlet as saying that they believed the pressure would persuade Biden to drop out as soon as this weekend.

Biden has insisted he is not backing down, adamant that he is the candidate who beat Trump before and will do it again this year. Pressed about reports that Biden might be softening to the idea of leaving the race, his deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said Thursday: “He is not wavering on anything.”

"He's staying in the race," Fulks told a press conference on the sidelines of the Republican convention in Milwaukee.

"Our campaign is not working through any scenarios where President Biden is not the top of the ticket -- he is and will be the Democratic nominee."

California Senator Alex Padilla said Biden was "not skipping a beat."

"I know having spoken to him personally he's committed to the campaign," he added.

Using mountains of data showing Biden’s standing could wipe out the ranks of Democrats in Congress, frank conversations in public and private, and now, the president’s own time off the campaign trail after testing positive for COVID-19, many Democrats see an opportunity to encourage a reassessment.

Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he was "doing well."

His COVID diagnosis however came at the worst possible time for his campaign, forcing him to cut short a trip to Las Vegas and isolate at his holiday home in Rehoboth, Delaware.

The split-screen with Trump could not have been more stark, with Trump set to formally accept the Republican nomination in Milwaukee.

US networks showed images of frail looking Biden gingerly descending the steps of Air Force One in Delaware, in a week when Trump is lauded by supporters each night at a packed party convention.

Former president Trump, who at 78 is just three years younger than Biden, is riding a wave of support from his party after surviving an assassination attempt on Saturday that left him with a bandaged ear.

The United States could now be approaching the climax of an extraordinary three weeks in politics, which started when Biden gave a disastrous performance during a televised debate with Trump.

Biden blamed jet lag and a cold, but the fact that America's commander-in-chief has now fallen ill for a second time just as fears grow about his fitness for the job has merely intensified the panic in Democratic ranks.