Pyongyang said Wednesday a U.S. soldier who crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea last month is seeking refuge in the country or elsewhere, as state media referred to him for the first time.
The soldier, Travis King, a private second class in the U.S. Army, has admitted to illegally entering North Korea, saying he "harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination" in the army, the official Korean Central News Agency said.
King has also said he is "disillusioned at the unequal American society," according to an interim report on North Korea's investigation into the case carried by KCNA.
On July 18, King, who was stationed in South Korea, went "willfully" across the military demarcation line into North Korea while on a tour of the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom, U.S. officials and the U.S.-led U.N. Command said.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Martin Meiners said Tuesday, "We can't verify these alleged comments. We remain focused on his safe return." The U.S. Defense Department's priority is "to bring Private King home," he said, adding, "We are working through all available channels to achieve that outcome."
Quoting U.S. officials, Reuters news agency has reported that the soldier was due to face disciplinary action by the U.S. military.
The United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations. Some analysts say Pyongyang may use King as a bargaining chip in future negotiations with Washington.
The U.N. Command oversees activities in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas.