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A U.S. national is believed to have been taken into North Korean custody after crossing into the communist nation at the DMZ line during a tour, according to the United Nations.
The person was reportedly on a tour of the Joint Security Area in the demilitarized zone when he crossed into North Korea and was taken into custody.
“A U.S. National on a JSA orientation tour crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident,” the U.N. said in a tweet.
A local South Korean outlet has identified the American national as an Army soldier named Travis King, though other outlets have not yet confirmed the identity of the American. According to NBC News, JSA tours are conducted by both the U.N. and private companies, due to the historical significance of the area.
The incident marks the first time in several years that an American has been taken into custody in North Korea. Most travel was banned in 2017 due to “the serious risk to United States nationals of arrest and long-term detention.”
The move came on the heels of 22-year-old college student Otto Warmbier dying after he was detained in North Korea after being accused of trying to steal a propaganda poster. Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor before later being released by North Korea and returned to the U.S. in a coma. He died days after his return to America.
The detention comes after the U.S. sent a nuclear-armed submarine, the USS Kentucky, to South Korea, the first time that kind of sub had been sent to the area in over 30 years.
South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup said the sub “shows the allies’ overwhelming capability and posture against North Korea.”
North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile last week in a test as it continues to develop its nuclear capabilities. The tests have been condemned by the Biden administration.
“With respect to its intercontinental ballistic missile capability, this is a capability they began testing several years ago. They have continued to test it. We watch all of those tests very closely to see how it is developing and we could coordinate extremely closely with our allies — with Japan and Korea — to make sure that we are responding in lockstep to this threat,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday.