North Korea on Tuesday first commented on a US soldier who ran into the territory of the isolated country last month.
The North Korean state media KCNA alleged that “Travis King admitted illegally entering DPRK territory”, using the abbreviation for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
US Army Pvt. 2nd Class Travis King, 23, crossed the Demilitarized Zone, the heavily fortified border between North Korea and South Korea, in July “intentionally and without authorization,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters last month.
North Korea also claimed that King said he had decided to enter North Korean territory.
KCNA said King “confessed that he had decided to come to the DPRK because he had a bad feeling about inhumane treatment and racial discrimination within the US military.”
“He also expressed his willingness to look for a refugee in the DPRK or a third country,” the KCNA report says.
The claims could not be immediately verified.
KCNA, officially the Korean Central News Agency, is essentially a mouthpiece for North Korea’s authoritarian government.
US Defense Department spokesman Martin Meiners said that “we cannot verify these purported comments”.
“We remain focused on his safe return. The Department’s priority is to bring Private King home, and that we are working through all available channels to achieve that outcome,” Meiners said.
North Korea has previously issued a very curt response to United Nations officials about King, a Pentagon official said on Aug. 1.
U.S. Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters on Aug. 1 that the UN command had been communicating with North Korea through “established communication channels through the Joint Security Agency.”
“I can confirm that the DPRK has responded to the United Nations order, but I have no substantial progress to read out,” Ryder said at the time.
King was sent home from South Korea when he mingled with a tourist group on his way to the demilitarized zone and crossed the border on July 18, the US Department of Defense said.
Tensions between North Korea and South Korea are still high 70 years after the Korean War. An armistice signed in 1953 ended the fighting, but a peace treaty between the two countries was never signed.
North Korea routinely objects to South Korea-US combined military exercises and has repeatedly launched ballistic missiles in violation of UN resolutions.
Sanctions have repeatedly been imposed on the province. North Korea has also conducted nuclear tests on six occasions, which have also been banned by the UN