US soldiers believed to have been detained in North Korea after crossing border

Panmunjom is a popular tourist destination, with hundreds of tourists visiting the area on the Korean side every day.

A US soldier is believed to have been detained by North Korea after crossing a heavily fortified border, and the incident is likely to further exacerbate the troubled relationship between the nuclear powers and the United States.

The United Nations Command announced that “an American who was on a JSA orientation tour crossed the Military Demarcation Line and entered the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) without permission,” referring to the Joint Security Area and the North-South border. .

“We believe he is currently in North Korean custody and are cooperating with KPA officials to resolve this case,” he said, referring to North Korea’s KPA. .

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U.S. officials confirmed that the American was a soldier and was believed to be in North Korean custody, while US Forces Korea spokesman Col. said to have entered the country.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters, “We are closely monitoring and investigating the situation and are working to notify the next of kin of the soldier.”

Citing a US official, CBS News reported that the soldier, a low-ranking soldier who had been escorted to the US for disciplinary reasons, managed to get out of the airport and join the tour group.

North and South Korea have technically been at war since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty and a demilitarized zone along the border.

Soldiers from both sides face off in the JSA north of Seoul overseen by the United Nations Command.

It is also a popular tourist destination, with hundreds of tourists visiting the area on the Korean side every day.

Former US President Donald Trump crossed the border and stood on North Korean soil in 2019, meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Armistice Village in Panmunjom.

“Panmunjom is the most likely location that this American has chosen to cross to North Korea because it is the only place in the entire JSA tour where such a move can be attempted.” Choi Gi-il, professor of military science at Sangji University, told AFP. .

A witness who was on the same tour told CBS News that when the group visited one of the buildings at the scene, “the man yelled ‘hahaha’ and ran through several buildings. ‘ said.

“At first I thought it was a bad joke, but when he didn’t come back I realized it wasn’t, and then everyone reacted and things got crazy,” they said.

South Korea’s defense ministry declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

-There are no North Korean soldiers-

North Korea closed its borders when the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020 and has yet to reopen the blockade. The security system at the JSA on the border side was also significantly reduced.

When AFP visited the JSA earlier this year, no North Korean guards were seen in the area. Still, under the Armistice Agreement, neither South Korean nor U.S. personnel could cross the border to retrieve U.S. citizens.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Tharp, who served in the JSA area, told Seoul-based specialist site NK News he had no idea how North Korea would react to the incident. this.

He told NK News, “It’s our first contact since the COVID-19 pandemic…I don’t know what they’re thinking.”

The incident comes at a time when inter-Korean relations are at their worst, with diplomacy at a standstill and Mr. Kim calling for the expansion of weapons development, including tactical nuclear weapons.

In response, South Korea and the United States stepped up defense cooperation and conducted joint military exercises using state-of-the-art stealth jets and US strategic assets.

– Nuclear Submarine –

The allies held their first nuclear talks group meeting in Seoul on Tuesday and announced that a US nuclear-powered submarine would visit Busan for the first time since 1981.

The move is likely to provoke a strong reaction from North Korea, which is reluctant to see US nuclear assets deployed around the Korean Peninsula.

Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said on Monday that such actions would only push North Korea “further further away” from the possibility of talks.

The JSA in Panmunjom is usually peaceful despite ongoing hostilities between the two countries.

In 1976, North Koreans killed two US soldiers with an ax during a dispute over a tree within the JSA.

The last JSA defection occurred in 2017, when North Korean soldiers drove military jeeps and crossed the Panmunjom demarcation line on foot.

He was shot multiple times by fellow North Korean soldiers who tried to prevent him from fleeing, but survived after hours of surgery.

Inter-Korean asylums are generally rare, but when North Koreans seek exile across the northern border into China to escape extreme poverty and oppression, the reverse is far more common.


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