US Soldier Reportedly Crossed Into North Korea on Purpose

Unidentified person, who was on a tour of the DMZ at the time, has been detained
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2023 6:44 AM CDT
Updated Jul 18, 2023 9:09 AM CDT
US National Strays Across Border, Is Detained in N. Korea
A South Korean soldier stands near the Military Demarcation Line inside the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea in this file photo.   (Kim Min-hee/Pool Photo via AP)

Updated throughout with new information. The US has a new diplomatic incident brewing with North Korea: The UN tweeted Tuesday that a US national crossed the border into North Korea on Tuesday and is now detained. The person was on an organized tour of the Joint Security Area at the time, part of the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea, when he crossed the border "without authorization," says the United Nations Command. "We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident," the tweet said. Reuters reports that South Korean media has identified the American as a US Army private, and reports in the US are now backing that up.

The Washington Post, CNN, and and the AP are among the outlets identifying the person as a US soldier, quoting anonymous US officials. "This was a deliberate decision on part of the service member to cross," the Post quotes a US official as saying. The assertion has not been confirmed by the State Department. The newspaper adds that the soldier had been supposed to fly home to the US recently but failed to make his flight for unknown reasons. Tours of the JSA have been operating for decades, notes NBC News, either by private companies or the UN.

A State Department advisory warns US nationals against entering North Korea given the risk of detention, a policy put in place after American student Otto Warmbier was detained and sent back home in 2017 in a coma that proved fatal. The incident comes amid the typical tension between the US and Pyongyang: NBC notes that the USS Kentucky, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived at a naval base in South Korea for a scheduled visit on Tuesday. "This port visit to Busan reflects the United States' ironclad commitment to the Republic of Korea for our extended deterrence guarantee," said US Forces Korea in a statement. (More North Korea stories.)

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