Last Wednesday, North Korea provided its first official confirmation that it is detaining the US soldier who crossed into the country from South Korea last month, the Associated Press reported.
In a statement released through state media, Pyongyang included statements from Army Pvt. Travis King that were critical of the United States, however, one expert described the statement as propaganda.
King, who was stationed in South Korea, evaded authorities who were sending him back to Texas and made his way to a border village on July 18 and escaped into North Korea, becoming the first American known to be detained by the North in nearly 5 years.
Korean Central News Agency reported last Wednesday that King said he fled to North Korea because he “harbored ill feelings” against the Army for its “inhuman mistreatment and racial discrimination.”
KCNA claimed that King said he was “disillusioned” with the inequality in the United States and was willing to seek refuge in North Korea or another country.
According to the report, the North Korean government is continuing to investigate King’s “illegal” entry.
However, the Associated Press notes that it is not possible to verify the quotes attributed to King in the KCNA report. Other foreign detainees have said upon release from North Korea that they were coerced into making declarations.
An unnamed Pentagon official told the Associated Press that the US has no way to verify the claims made about King. According to the official, the Pentagon is using all available channels to try to get King released and returned to the United States.
Former CIA analyst Soo Kim told the Associated Press that the KCNA report is “100% North Korean propaganda.” She said as an American held in custody, Pvt. King has no control over how the North Koreans decide to frame the narrative.
Kim added that Pyongyang may use King as a bargaining chip to obtain “financial concessions” from the United States.