The Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), expressed his concerns on Sunday about North Korea potentially exploiting the situation of alleged U.S. Army defector Travis King for their gain.
“He’s likely not in a good situation. His choice to do so was gravely mistaken, and I hope we can recover him,” McCaul said about the 23-year-old Cavalry scout during his appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
McCaul suggested that King, a Private 2nd Class from Wisconsin, was likely trying to escape personal issues. He voiced concerns that North Korea could seize this opportunity to its advantage, similar to other nations like Russia, China, and Iran, who have historically demanded compensation when they capture American citizens, especially soldiers.
King exhibited signs of potential defection from the Army nearly a year before escaping North Korean territory. He told military officials stationed in South Korea that he had no intention of “returning to post or America.”
On Tuesday, when he darted across the border, the 23-year-old became the first soldier in several decades to defect to North Korea.
Upon entering the secluded North Korean territory, his situation remains uncertain, given that officials there have disregarded diplomatic outreach efforts.
This unexplained action was not the first indication of trouble for King, originally from Wisconsin, who faced allegations of assault related to a nightclub brawl on September 25.
ABC News reported that weeks before, on September 4, while serving at Camp Bonifas near the southern boundary of the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, King failed to show up for his daily formation and instead disappeared to a nearby city.
Upon contact by the base, King, who served as a cavalry scout, “declined to return to post or America,” according to a U.S. official who spoke to the news outlet.
King, who had been detained over an assault case and had reportedly caused damage to a South Korean police vehicle, crossed the DMZ “intentionally and without permission,” as per U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Martha Raddatz, the moderator of the ABC show, pointed out the tense relationship between the U.S. and North Korea, including North Korea’s recent spate of cruise-missile launches.
In response to North Korea’s objections to a U.S. nuclear submarine docking in South Korea, McCaul stressed, “The show of strength through the docking of our sub is essential to deter any potential aggression.
We’re witnessing significant hostility from North Korea, with their missile launches into the Sea of Japan and China concerning Taiwan. North Korea and Chairman Xi of China must understand that aggressive military actions will have serious consequences.”