A U.S. national identified as Travis King is believed held by North Korean authorities after crossing the inter-Korean border, according to a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
The border crossing reportedly occurred during a tour of the Joint Security Area where the Korean War armistice agreement was signed.
“A U.S. National on a JSA orientation tour crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” a U.N. Command spokesperson said Tuesday in a Twitter post.
“We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident.”
North Korean officials released a statement confirming the incident, according to a Fox News report.
The reclusive nation’s statement confirmed the intruder was “detained by our Republic’s relevant institution.” North Korea has a history of dealing harshly with unauthorized entries into its territory.
NBC News reports the USS Kentucky (SSBN 737), a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, is docked at South Korea’s Busan naval base, demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional security.
The detaining of the U.S. national underscores the ongoing risk associated with travel to North Korea as the U.S. State Department maintains an advisory warning against entry to the country due to risks of arrest and long-term detention.
In 2017, U.S.-North Korean relations were significantly strained after the death of U.S. student Otto Warmbier who had been arrested for stealing a propaganda sign, as per the BBC.
However, during the tenure of former President Donald Trump, three U.S. citizens detained by North Korea were released in 2018, which reflected some progress in negotiations with the North Korean regime.
The recent event is another significant chapter in the ongoing narrative of U.S.-North Korea relations, serving as a cautionary tale to U.S. citizens about the potential risks of traveling to North Korea.