U.S. Soldier Detained After Crossing Heavily Fortified Korean Border

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Seoul, South Korea:

An American soldier has been detained by North Korea after crossing the heavily fortified border from South Korea, U.S. officials revealed on Tuesday.

The incident, which occurred during heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program, has raised questions about how and why the soldier crossed into North Korean territory.

However, no immediate details about the circumstances surrounding the border crossing or whether the soldier was on duty have been disclosed.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, four U.S. officials shared the information with The Associated Press ahead of a public announcement.

Cases of defections to North Korea by Americans or South Koreans are rare, while more than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea since the Korean War ended in 1953, seeking refuge from political oppression and economic difficulties.

According to the American-led U.N. Command overseeing the area, the detained U.S. citizen was part of a tour group visiting the Korean border village of Panmunjom.

However, he crossed the border into North Korea without authorization, leading to his current custody by North Korean authorities.

The U.N. Command is actively collaborating with its North Korean counterparts to resolve the incident peacefully.

Notably, North Korea’s state media has not yet reported on the border crossing, adding to the uncertainty surrounding the situation.

Panmunjom, situated inside the 248-kilometer-long Demilitarized Zone, is jointly overseen by the U.N. Command and North Korea since its establishment at the close of the Korean War.

Despite occasional bloodshed and gunfire, the location has been a significant venue for talks and a popular tourist destination.

Its iconic blue huts straddle concrete slabs forming a military demarcation line, attracting visitors from both sides curious to experience the Cold War’s last frontier. However, no civilians reside in Panmunjom.

Before the pandemic, tours to the southern side of the village attracted approximately 100,000 visitors annually.

Although South Korea suspended these tours temporarily to contain the spread of COVID-19, they fully resumed last year.

Historically, Panmunjom has been the stage for dramatic incidents. In November 2017, North Korean soldiers fired at a colleague attempting to escape, hitting him five times before he was discovered on the southern side. He survived and is now residing in South Korea.

Perhaps the most infamous event at Panmunjom occurred in August 1976 when two American army officers were killed by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers.

The attack prompted a show of force by the United States, with nuclear-capable B-52 bombers flying toward the DMZ to intimidate North Korea.

Additionally, Panmunjom holds historical significance as the location where the armistice ending the Korean War was signed.

However, a peace treaty has not replaced the armistice, leaving the Korean Peninsula technically in a state of war.

Consequently, the United States continues to maintain approximately 28,000 troops in South Korea.
While defections of U.S. soldiers to North Korea are rare, they have occurred in the past.

One notable case involved Charles Jenkins, who deserted his army post in South Korea in 1965 and crossed the DMZ to North Korea.

Jenkins appeared in North Korean propaganda films and married a Japanese nursing student who had been abducted by North Korean agents. He passed away in Japan in 2017.

In recent years, some Americans have been arrested in North Korea after allegedly entering the country from China.

They were often convicted of espionage, subversion, and other anti-state acts. However, high-profile missions sent by the U.S. secured their release in many instances.

The latest incident takes place against the backdrop of North Korea’s barrage of missile tests since the beginning of last year, leading to heightened tensions in the region.

In response, the United States sent a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea on Tuesday for the first time in decades, as a show of deterrence against North Korea’s aggressive actions.

The situation remains closely monitored as authorities work to resolve the detention of the American soldier in North Korea and prevent further escalations in the region.

Read the original article here:
Associated Press 

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