American soldier Travis T. King, who was released from North Korean custody after multi-week diplomatic efforts, has arrived back in the United States, U.S. media reported.
Media outlets published pictures from video of the US Army Private disembarking from a US military plane at Kelly Field at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, at around 1:30 a.m. ET, Thursday.
North Korean state media KCNA reported on Wednesday that the Kim Jong Un regime had decided “to expel” King, who was arrested after illegally crossing into North Korea from South Korea in July.
King, a cavalry scout stationed in South Korea, crossed into North Korean territory on July 18 after joining a tour group of the Joint Security Area at the Demilitarized Zone in Panmunjom.
North Korea handed over King to U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns and Brigadier General Patrick Teague in China on Wednesday, from where he was flown to the US military base in Texas.
Travis King’s return home culminates weeks-long effort across multiple U.S. government agencies.
“We are grateful to the Swedish government for its diplomatic role in serving as the protecting power for the United States in the DPRK and to the government of the People’s Republic of China for its assistance in facilitating the safe transit of Private King,” senior administration officials said at a news conference.
For the last many weeks, the U.S. government has been reaching out to North Korea through multiple channels to ascertain his welfare and to try to secure his safe return home. That includes outreach at the United Nations and through Washington’s United Nations Command.
The official said China helped to facilitate the transfer but did not mediate by any means.
“The Swedish played an important role. They have been our primary interlocutor in helping us get Private King out,” he told reporters.
National Security Council officials, who announced King’s release as he was being transferred from China to a U.S. base, said, “King appears to be in good health and good spirits as he makes his way home”.
The soldier would receive a full evaluation to address any medical or emotional concerns before being reunited with his family, according to the officials.
They made it clear that the U.S. made no concessions to North Korea to secure King’s release.
The Pentagon said that before crossing the border, King had faced disciplinary action while stationed in South Korea and had served time in a correctional facility.
At the time of his crossing, he was scheduled to fly to the U.S. to face additional administrative action by the U.S. Army.
Officials said King’s administrative status would be addressed following his successful reintegration.
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