Travis King, the American soldier who ventured into North Korea two months ago, has finally set foot on U.S. soil again. The U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed that King arrived in San Antonio around 1:30 a.m. ET on Thursday.
The news of King’s return to U.S. custody emerged on Wednesday morning, marking the end of a challenging ordeal.
A senior Biden administration official stated, “We can confirm that U.S. officials have secured the return of Private King and departed PRC airspace en route to a U.S. military base.”
Army spokesman Bryce Dubee added that while King could face future actions from the Army, the immediate focus is on his well-being and privacy.
King will be transported to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where he will undergo the military’s reintegration process for Americans who have been detained overseas. This process typically takes place at Brooke Army Medical Center, located within Fort Sam Houston.
During a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller provided details about King’s return journey. He stated, “The United States has secured the return of Private Travis King from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” King was transported from North Korea to the border with China, where he was met by U.S. officials and then flown to Osan Air Force Base in South Korea before being transferred to the Department of Defense.
Miller did not have specific information on the details of King’s transportation within North Korea or whether Pyongyang had made any demands for his release. He reiterated that the U.S. had not made any concessions.
Securing King’s return from North Korea was the result of a lengthy effort involving multiple government agencies and the assistance of Sweden and China, according to senior administration officials.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, expressed gratitude, saying, “U.S. officials have secured the return of Private Travis King from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We appreciate the dedication of the interagency team that has worked tirelessly out of concern for Private King’s well-being.”
Senior administration officials reported that King appears to be in good health and spirits, having been able to speak with his family.
North Korea transferred King to Swedish representatives within North Korea, who then transported him across the border into China. From there, a U.S. official took custody of King, and he was flown back to the U.S.
Sweden played a crucial intermediary role between the U.S. and North Korea, serving as the protecting power for the U.S. in the DPRK.
China did not participate in the negotiations but facilitated the transfer out of its territory.
Officials emphasized that there were no concessions made for King’s release.
Sweden informed the U.S. earlier this month that North Korea was willing to release King, which prompted intensive efforts to secure his transfer.
While North Korea announced its decision to expel King earlier on Wednesday, Miller cautioned against viewing this as a sign of broader diplomatic breakthroughs with North Korea. He stated, “I don’t know that I would take from this that it heralds some breakthrough in diplomatic relations. Obviously, we’re pleased to have secured his return.”
Travis King, a 23-year-old cavalry scout serving in South Korea, had faced administrative separation actions in the U.S. after being detained in South Korea for 47 days due to an assault conviction. He had left the airport for a tour of the DMZ instead of boarding a plane at Incheon International Airport on July 17.