Soldier Back In US After Release By North Korea

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) AFP

Washington: An American soldier released by North Korea has returned to the United States and is undergoing health screenings in Texas, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

Officials said Travis King -- described as being in "good health" -- is at the Brooke Army Medical Center, a usual stop for recently freed detainees, including basketball star Brittney Griner and "Hotel Rwanda" hero Paul Rusesabagina.

King will go through a "reintegration program" involving medical screenings and mental health assessments after arriving back in the United States overnight, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists.

He will also "be getting debriefed by US military officials," she said, without providing details on that process.

After a drunken bar fight and a stay in South Korean jail, Private Second Class King was meant to fly back to Texas in July.

But instead of travelling to Fort Bliss for disciplinary hearings, he walked out of the Seoul-area airport, joined a Demilitarized Zone sightseeing trip and slipped over the massively fortified border where he was detained by the communist authorities.

Singh said she did not have information on what disciplinary action King may now face, and that at this point, "we're really focused on his health, reuniting him with his family."

Pyongyang said last month that King had defected to North Korea to escape "mistreatment and racial discrimination in the US Army."

But after completing its investigation, North Korea "decided to expel Travis King, a soldier of the US Army who illegally intruded into the territory of the DPRK, under the law of the Republic," the Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday, abbreviating the North's official name.

King's border crossing came with relations between the two Koreas at a low point, with diplomacy stalled and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling for increased weapons development, including tactical nuclear warheads.

The two Koreas remain technically at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a treaty.

One of the last US citizens to be detained by the North was student Otto Warmbier, who was held for a year and a half before being released in a coma to the United States. He died six days later.

Around half a dozen American soldiers made rare defections to the North after the Korean War and were used for the country's propaganda.


The Peninsula

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