Travis King, a 23-year-old American soldier who ran across the border into North Korea in July, is back in U.S. custody, officials at the White House and the Pentagon say.
North Korea's state news agency had said earlier Wednesday the country would expel King, claiming he had “confessed that he illegally intruded” into the country.
U.S. officials said King was transferred to China where he was handed over to the United States.
“Pvt. King appears to be in good health and good spirits as he makes his way home,” said a senior Biden administration official, who asked not to be named when briefing reporters on details before the transfer was made public.
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U.S. officials spent weeks negotiating King's release. Since North Korea and the United States do not have diplomatic relations, Washington used other channels, including Swedish diplomats.
Statements from White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and the Pentagon thanked both Sweden and China for helping facilitate King's transfer to U.S. custody.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said earlier that King, who is African American, was “disillusioned about the unequal U.S. society,” echoing earlier reports that King was open to seeking refuge in North Korea or a third country.
King's uncle told ABC News in August that his nephew had experienced racism in the Army. King joined the Army in 2021 and was stationed in South Korea.
King had recently served in prison in South Korea for an assault and was due to return to a base at Fort Bliss, Texas, facing possible disciplinary action.
But King skipped his flight and joined a civilian tour of the Joint Security Area at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. He then bolted across the border, where he was quickly detained by North Korean authorities.
U.S. officials said Wednesday that before they decide on next steps on his case, he will be given medical and psychological attention and will be reunited with his family. He's already been able to speak with them.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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