King, thought to be the first US soldier to cross into North Korea since 1982, had a history of violence, was facing disciplinary punishment for his behavior, and was scheduled to return to the US the day before the event.
General Andrew Harrison said the case of King is still being investigated and he could not provide any further information on the private, who the US military said crossed into North Korea “willfully and without authorization” while on a civilian tour of the Joint Security Area.
A small collection of buildings inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that has separated North and South Korea since the Korean War ended in 1953.
“Under the armistice agreement, there is a mechanism in place whereby lines of communication are open between the UNC and the Korean People’s Army, and that takes place in the JSA.” “The process has begun,” Harrison told reporters at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club.
He said that his responses were “disappointing,” but “I’m constrained by what I can say.”
“You may not get the answers for what you’re desperate for,” Harrison warned the media.
As the process progresses, the UN Command will prioritize King’s well-being, he added.
“Clearly, there is so much welfare at stake, and clearly we’re in a very difficult and complex situation that I don’t want to risk by speculating or going into too much detail about the existing communications,” he added.
According to two US sources, North Korea recognized the United Nations Command’s outreach over the King issue.
According to State Department spokeswoman Matt Miller, the State Department has not gotten a response to its communications on King. He also stated that he believed the US military had not received a response.
On the UN side, Miller stated that it was his understanding “that there have been no new communications since last week, communications that happened in the early days,” but that the North Korean government had confirmed receipt of the message.
“From what I understand, the North Koreans acknowledge receiving the message.”
“I’m not aware of any new communications, other than those that happened in the very early hours, early days after he went across the border,” Miller said during a State Department briefing Monday.
The United Nations Command (UNC) is a multinational military force that fought alongside South Korea during the 1950-1953 Korean War.
It controls the South Korean side of the JSA, which is the only location where the North and South may have discussions.
Since crossing into North Korea last Tuesday, King has not been seen or heard from publicly. North Korea has similarly made no comment on the status or condition of the missing soldier.
His motivation for crossing the border into one of the world’s most repressive countries, with which the United States has no diplomatic connections, has remained a mystery.
A US Army official told CNN that when the soldier returned to Fort Bliss in Texas, he would be administratively removed from the army.
But, before boarding an American Airlines aircraft from Incheon International Airport south of Seoul on Monday, King took off.
“He passed through all of the security points up to the boarding gate, but he informed the airline staff that his passport was missing,” an Incheon airport officer told CNN. According to the official, the airline workers then brought him back outside to the departure side.
King had booked reservations for the next day’s Joint Security Area tour and somehow made it there, accompanying other visitors as they traveled into the DMZ and the Joint Security Area, where he then rushed into North Korea.