The United States said Wednesday it has no fresh news on the US soldier who left a tour of the demilitarized zone and ran into North Korea, in a bizarre incident that has baffled authorities in Washington.
US officials have identified the soldier as Private Second Class Travis King, who broke away from a South Korean orientation visit in the border Panmunjon truce village on Tuesday and raced over the frontier where it is believed he was taken into custody by North Korean officials.
Little is known about the serviceman’s motive or present status in the reclusive nation.
“We here at the State Department, and the UN, are all continuing to work together on this matter to ascertain information about the well-being and whereabouts of Private King,” said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.
King, who earlier was in the process of being sent back to the United States over disciplinary problems, somehow got to Panmunjon and crossed the border “wilfully and without authorisation”, US officials said.
Miller said the State Department was continuing to gather information on the case, but knew nothing of his current condition.
“I want to be very clear that the administration has and will continue to actively work to ensure his safety and return him home to his family,” he said.
He said the Pentagon has reached out to contacts in the North Korean military for information on King’s situation, but there had not been a response.
Miller said Washington, which does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, has other channels to communicate.
He mentioned that the State Department is engaging counterparts in South Korea and Sweden to find out information on King.
US media said King broke away at an airport as he was being escorted home for disciplinary reasons.
According to South Korean police, King had spent around two months in a local prison on assault charges, and was released on July 10.