US says working to free soldier who fled to North Korea

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The United States said Wednesday it was committed to freeing an American soldier who fled to North Korea, and declined to comment on remarks attributed to him by Pyongyang.

In North Korea’s first comments on last month’s crossing of Travis King, state media said that the soldier, who is Black, fled “racial discrimination” and had “ill feeling” toward the US Army.

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A State Department spokesperson said the US government “can’t verify the comments attributed to Private King.”

“We remain focused on his safe return,” the spokesperson said.

“The Department’s priority is to bring Private King home, and we are working through all available channels to achieve that outcome.”

The United States has previously said that King crossed the border at the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone separating the North and the South “willfully and without authorization.”

North Korean propaganda often highlights racism in the United States.

King had been held by South Korean authorities over assault and was set to be returned to the United States, where he could have faced military discipline.

The United States has still not received any response from North Korea to its continuing efforts to make contact about Private Travis King, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said, despite Pyongyang’s state media acknowledging for the first time on Wednesday the US soldier’s crossing from South Korea.

“We have raised this case through the appropriate channels that exist to send messages and communicate to the DPRK,” Patel said at a regular press briefing, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

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