The United Nations Command and North Korea have begun discussing the case of Travis King, the U.S. soldier who crossed into the North last week, the deputy commander of the U.S.-led command that oversees the Korean War truce said on Monday.
King, a U.S. Army private serving in South Korea, sprinted into North Korea on July 18 while on a tour of the Demilitarized Zone on the inter-Korean border, landing Washington in a fresh diplomatic quandary with the nuclear-armed North.
Conversations between the UNC and North Korea’s military were initiated and conducted through a mechanism established under the Korean War armistice, according to Lieutenant General Andrew Harrison, a British Army officer serving as deputy commander of the multinational force.
“The primary concern for us is Private King’s welfare,” Harrison told a media briefing, declining to go into detail.
“The conversation has commenced with the KPA through the mechanisms of the Armistice agreement,” Harrison said, referring to the North’s Korean People’s Army.
“I can’t say anything that could prejudice that process.”
North Korea’s state media, which has usually commented whenever U.S. nationals have been detained, has remained silent about King.
The incident comes at a time of heightened tension on the Korean peninsula. Last week, North Korea conducted ballistic missile tests hours after a U.S. nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine arrived at a South Korean port.
It was the first such visit since the 1980s, and served a blunt reminder to the North that Washington always has nuclear-tipped missiles deployed within close striking distance.
North Korea is banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions from using ballistic missile technology, which Pyongyang defiantly rejects.
On Saturday, the North fired a barrage of cruise missiles toward the sea to the west of the Korean Peninsula. On Monday, another U.S. nuclear-powered submarine arrived in South Korea.
North Korea also warned on Thursday that deployment of U.S. aircraft carriers, bombers or missile submarines in South Korea could meet criteria for its use of nuclear weapons.