American detained by North Korea after crossing DMZ is a U.S. soldier


North Korean officials have detained a U.S. national who crossed into the country through the demarcation zone without authorization, a United Nations body responsible for ensuring security on the inter-Korean border reported Tuesday.

The person detained is a U.S. Army soldier, according to a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

“We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident,” United Nations Command said in a tweet, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its armed forces.

The American individual, whom U.N. officials did not identify by name, was visiting the Joint Security Area that separates North and South Korea while on an “orientation tour,” the United Nations said. He crossed the military demarcation line that runs through the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and went into North Korea, where he was detained, it added.

The Joint Security Area is an 800-meter-wide bubble within the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea where diplomatic discussions can take place. The border area, one of the most fortified in the world, is overseen by the United Nations.

According to the United Nations Command, Korean nationals and foreign tourists are able to visit more than a dozen “Education and Orientation Program sites” within the demilitarized zone, where visitors can learn about the Korean War and the subsequent armistice agreement. It was not immediately clear whether the detained U.S. national was visiting one of those sites. Public tours to the area were suspended for most of the pandemic.

The State Department in 2017 imposed a travel ban on U.S. nationals traveling to North Korea after the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who traveled to Pyongyang on a tourism group in 2015 and was arrested and detained on charges of stealing a propaganda poster. He died days after being flown home in a coma.

The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to its citizens in the country, the State Department notes in its travel advisory on North Korea, because no diplomatic or consular relations exist between Washington and Pyongyang.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for more information early Tuesday. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said it did not have immediate information available on the incident.

This is a breaking story. It will be updated.


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