Travis King arrives back in US after ‘trespassing’ into North Korea
The moment Private Travis King touched back down on American soil after being held in North Korea for two months has been released. King, 23, made a brazen run for North Korean soil back in July when he broke away from a tour group that was viewing the demilitarized area between the rogue state and the South. Since then, the Wisconsin-native had not been heard from.
In the clip, King appeared to calmly walk off a plane in San Antonio, Texas. He landed around 1:30am local time. Dressed in what seemed to be civilian clothes, he spoke briefly with people waiting on the tarmac, one wearing military fatigues and one in street clothes. A nearby photographer snapped pictures of the conversation. King shook hands with one before being led into a building without the apparent presence of an armed guard.
His release was secured with the help of ally Sweden and rival China, the White House said Wednesday. North Korea had abruptly announced that it would expel King. He has been declared AWOL from the Army. In many cases, someone who is AWOL for more than a month can automatically be considered a deserter. Punishment for going AWOL or desertion can vary, and it depends in part on whether the service member voluntarily returned or was apprehended. King’s handover by the North Koreans makes that more complicated.
It was not clear why the North — which has tense relations with Washington over the Pyongyang’s nuclear program, support for Russia’s war in Ukraine and other issues — agreed to turn him over or why the soldier had fled in the first place. King, who had served in South Korea, ran into North Korea while on a civilian tour of a border village on July 18, becoming the first American confirmed to be detained in the North in nearly five years. At the time, King was supposed to be heading to Fort Bliss, Texas, following his release from prison in South Korea on an assault conviction.
His release almost certainly does not end his troubles. He has been declared AWOL from the Army, a status that can be punished by detention in military jail, forfeiture of pay or a dishonorable discharge. On Wednesday, Swedish officials took King to the Chinese border, where he was met by the U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, the Swedish ambassador to China, and at least one U.S. Defense Department official. Biden administration officials insisted they provided no concessions to North Korea to secure the soldier’s release. King was flown to an American military base in South Korea before being returned to the U.S.
Earlier, North Korea announced without warning that it would expel King, surprising observers who had expected the rogue state to drag out his detention in the hopes of squeezing concessions from Washington. The North Korean state news agency KCNA reported early Wednesday that King was being removed from the country because of his ‘illegal entry’ in July when he broke free from a tour group viewing the DMZ and made a dash to the communist country.
Want more stories like this from the Daily Mail? Visit our profile page here and hit the follow button above for more of the news you need.