Washington, Aug 16 (EFE).- The United States government remains focused on the repatriation of an American soldier who entered North Korea last month and has not been able to confirm Pyongyang’s claim that the US Army private requested asylum, a White House official said Wednesday.
“I think anything that comes out of Pyongyang, you got to look at skeptically,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said during a news briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Center.
“It’s (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un were talking about, so we don’t tend to put a lot of stock in statements coming out of Pyongyang,” Kirby said.
North Korea confirmed earlier Wednesday that it is holding Pvt. Travis King, 23, who crossed into North Korean territory on July 18 during a tour of the Joint Security Area of the demilitarized zone that has separated the two Koreas since the 1950-1953 war.
North Korean state news agency KCNA said that King told officials in Pyongyang that he decided to enter the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – the country’s official name – as “he harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US Army.”
Kirby said that the US has made it clear to North Korea that it wants King returned.
“We still want to know where Pvt. King is. We still want to know what condition he is being held in, because our fears are certainly for the worst, and we have, sadly, had multiple good reasons to fear for his safety,” the NSC spokesperson said.
“But we don’t have a lot of information right now about where he is or how he is,” he said. “And it would be irresponsible for us to take at face value anything that comes out of Pyongyang.”
KCNA said that King had expressed “willingness to seek asylum” in North Korea or a third country.
Days before he crossed the border, King was released after nearly two months of forced labor in South Korea for assault and he was scheduled to leave for the US on July 19.
Once back in the US, King would have faced additional disciplinary action, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said last month.