The State Department expressed gratitude to Sweden and the People’s Republic of China for their assistance in facilitating the transfer of U.S. Army Pvt. Travis King back to the United States after being freed by North Korea. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller confirmed the successful return of Pvt. King from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and acknowledged the professionalism of diplomats who worked alongside the Department of Defense, as well as the coordination with Sweden and China.
U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns and Brig. Gen. Patrick Teague were reported to have met Pvt. King in China. The release was announced by U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who commended the dedication of the interagency team for their relentless efforts in ensuring Pvt. King’s wellbeing. The governments of Sweden and China were also recognized for their diplomatic roles and assistance in facilitating Pvt. King’s transit.
The details on whether the United States had to provide North Korea with any concessions, such as sanctions relief, in exchange for Pvt. King’s release have not been publicly disclosed. The Biden administration, however, asserted that no compromises were made. North Korea has not provided a public explanation for Pvt. King’s release, stating that its investigation of him has concluded and that he was expelled. According to North Korean state media KCNA, Pvt. King confessed to illegally intruding into the DPRK’s territory due to dissatisfaction with the U.S. Army’s treatment and disillusionment with unequal U.S. society. It remains unclear whether his confession was coerced or voluntary.
Pvt. King had crossed into North Korea on July 18, subsequently being detained by DPRK personnel. This followed an alleged assault in South Korea in 2022, which led to his impending dishonorable discharge from the military. After clearing customs at Incheon International Airport in South Korea, Pvt. King eluded U.S. Army personnel assigned to escort him and departed alone. Following his return to the United States, he was scheduled to undergo evaluation at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
The release of Pvt. King represents a rare positive development in the challenging relationship between the United States and North Korea, despite North Korea’s support of Russia with missiles for its conflict in Ukraine.