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North Korea to expel U.S. soldier who ran across the border

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Wednesday that it will expel Travis King, the U.S. soldier who intentionally ran across the border into the isolated country this summer.

King, 23, bolted across the heavily armed border on July 18 during a tour of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

A statement reported by the state-run news agency KCNA said that King will be “expelled” at an unspecified time. No details were given of the destination of the American Army private, who had been based in South Korea. 

The statement added that King had confessed he “illegally intruded” into North Korean territory because “he was disillusioned about inhumane treatment and racial discrimination” in the army as well as the “inequality existing within the American Society,” KCNA said.

The U.S. has not yet responded to these claims.

Before he crossed the border, King had not long been released from a South Korean prison and was being escorted by the military to Incheon International Airport near Seoul to possibly face further disciplinary action in the U.S.

A senior administration official told NBC News in July that King instead joined a commercial tour group headed for the Joint Security Area, a U.N.-administered area between the North and the South.

King’s detention has come at a time of elevated tension between the isolated communist state, its southern neighbor and the U.S.

Pyongyang has escalated its nuclear threats and embarked on a campaign of weapons tests, while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently embarked on a rare trip outside the country for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The growing ties between the two regimes have fueled Western fears that Kim may be willing to supply ammunition for the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine in exchange for military technology or economic aid that would negate international sanctions.

North Korea remained silent on King for weeks until it confirmed his detention in August with a statement attributing comments to him that were critical of the U.S.

King’s mother, Claudine Gates, later cast doubt on any suggestion that her son may have defected because of dissatisfaction with life in the U.S. Army.

“I just can’t see him ever wanting to just stay in Korea when he has family in America. He has so many reasons to come home,” said Gates, from Racine, Wisconsin.

Stella Kim reported from Seoul, and Patrick Smith from London.


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