North Korea Sends AWOL U.S. Soldier Back to U.S. Custody

( – United States Army Pvt. 2nd Class Travis King is back in United States custody after being expelled from North Korea on September 27. King skipped out on his flight from South Korea back to the United States after being held in detention for two months for assault and kicking a cop car.

After being escorted to the airport by the military, he skipped his flight and instead took a guided tour of the border between the two Korean nations. Then he decided to separate from the tour and crossed into North Korea on foot. The North Korean government conducted a 70-day investigation into King, concluding that he was guilty of illegally entering the country.

North Korean media claimed that King said he fled South Korea because he was being discriminated against by the United States Army. The Pentagon said that none of the claims could be verified. American media outlets found it odd that North Korea would expel a soldier from the United States, as the country has historically used them for propaganda purposes. However, King could have been viewed as of no use to the government as he was declared AWOL by the United States.

Cheong Seong-Chang from the Sejong Institute believes that North Korea expelled King because he was not “a meaningful source of U.S. military intelligence.” Officials delivered King just across its northern border into China, where United States officials were waiting. According to those officials, there was nothing offered in exchange for King’s release. It is unclear if King will be punished for his actions, but he could serve jail time, lose pay, or be dishonorably discharged.

Officials also said that King was in good health and glad to be heading back to the United States. United States Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller said that details of King’s treatment by the North Korean government were still unknown, but that he likely faced a tough interrogation. King returned to the United States on September 28.

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