The well-being of Travis King, the U.S. soldier who ran into North Korea last week, is uncertain at this point, but the United Nations has intervened on behalf of America to try to get him safely back home.
While in South Korea last week, King – who was supposed to be headed back to Fort Bliss in Texas – ran across the border between South and North Korea, an area that is heavily armed and guarded.
On Monday, General Andrew Harrison, the deputy commander of the U.N. Command, said that the King’s health and well-being was their primary concern. He added that communication lines have been already set up at the Joint Security Area that exists between the two countries, in hopes of having King returning back to the U.S.
Harrison didn’t provide any specific details about the negotiations, since they are highly sensitive.
The U.S. doesn’t have any direct diplomatic ties to North Korea – a totalitarian government that is totally shut off from the rest of the world – so it needs members of the UN to step in and help.
That security area was first established under the armistice agreement that brought to end the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 through 1953.
When news of King fleeing into North Korea was revealed last week, members of his family expressed great shock.
Claudine Gates, King’s mother, spoke to ABC News and said:
“I can’t see Travis doing anything like that.”
To this point, North Korea hasn’t said anything publicly about King or the situation. U.S. officials have said that North Korea has thus far ignored all American requests to gather more information.
Harrison wouldn’t make any guarantees about the conversations actually progressing anywhere with North Korea, which has reportedly detained King, though he said he “remains optimistic.”
Since King’s detainment early last week, all civilian tours of the Joint Security ARea have been suspended. King was on one of those tours when he bolted across the line.
The timing of the situation isn’t very good. North Korea has been in the process of conducting some military demonstrations in the area, while the U.S. and South Korea have also been doing joint military exercises.
America also sent the USS Annapolis to the port at Jeju Island just as North Korea is doing test fires of cruise and ballistic missiles. The USS Annapolis is a submarine that is nuclear-propelled.
That ship is the second to go to the Korean Peninsula in July alone to counter the threats that North Korea is posing. The USS Kentucky went to South Korea last week, which marked the first time since the 1980s that a U.S. submarine armed with nuclear weapons went to the region.
While all these “shows of force” are going on, many analysts believe it may take as many as a few months for North Korea to provide any meaningful information regarding King, as a way to maximize the leverage they have in what could end up being tough negotiations.