US officials say Travis King is in American custody after months of detainment in North Korea

The North Korean government has released a U.S. serviceman after holding him in detainment since July, Fox News Digital has confirmed. 

The North Korean government returned U.S. Army Pvt. Travis King to U.S. custody in mainland China on Wednesday following months of imprisonment, according to North Korean state outlets and the U.S. National Security Council.

“The relevant organ of the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] decided to expel Travis King, a soldier of the U.S. Army who illegally intruded into the territory of the DPRK, under the law of the Republic,” state media outlet Korean Central News Agency wrote early Wednesday, according to translations provided by Yonhap News Agency.


American soldier Travis King

This undated photo shows Travis King, the American soldier who officials say currently is being detained in North Korea. (Facebook)

The National Security Council confirmed King’s return in a call later the same morning.

“U.S. officials have secured the return of Private Travis King from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” said Pentagon Spokesperson Brigadier Gen Patrick Ryder.

He added, “We appreciate the hard work of personnel in the Army, United States Forces Korea, and across the Department of Defense to bring Private King home, and we thank the governments of Sweden and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for their assistance.”

King has been held by North Korean authorities since July 18, when he reportedly sprinted away from a tour group into the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.

“Ms. Gates will be forever grateful to the United States Army and all its interagency partners for a job well done,” said Jonathan Franks, spokesman for King’s mother, Claudine Gates. “For the foreseeable future, the family asks for privacy and Ms. Gates does not intend to give any interviews.”

Since his capture, there has been no contact with King, and North Korean officials have been intentionally obtuse in responding to U.S. inquiries.


South Korean soldiers at border

South Korean soldiers stand guard during a media tour of the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in the border village of Panmunjom in Paju. (Jeon-Heon-Kyun/AFP via Getty Images)

The incident happened after King finished approximately two months in a South Korean detention facility following a physical altercation with locals, a senior defense official told Fox News on Tuesday. Throughout the time he was held at the facility, he made comments that he did not want to come back to America, according to a U.S. official.   

King was eventually released on July 10 and was sent home Monday to Fort Bliss, where he could have faced additional military discipline and discharge from the service. King has faced at least two other assault-related allegations in South Korea. 

In February, a court fined him $3,950 after being convicted of assaulting an unidentified person and damaging a police vehicle in Seoul last October, according to a transcript of the verdict obtained by The Associated Press. 

Travis King

This family photo shows a portrait of American soldier Travis King displayed at the home of his grandfather Carl Gates in Kenosha, WI. Pvt. King ran into North Korea while on a tour of the Demilitarized Zone one day after he was supposed to travel to a base in the U.S.  (Family Photo via AP)


North Korea’s state media reported that King confessed to crossing into the North because of “inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army.”

“During the investigation, Travis King confessed that he had decided to come over to the DPRK as he harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army,” KCNA reported. “He also expressed his willingness to seek refuge in the DPRK or a third country, saying that he was disillusioned at the unequal American society.”

King’s mother disputed the reports from North Korea, saying that her son had no motivation to defect to the totalitarian nation.

King is currently recieving medical evaluations at a US military base in the North Pacific region. Following the evaluations, he will be transported to the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas for further mental and physical exams.

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