UN says American crossed border with North Korea during trip

The United Nations announced Tuesday that an American crossed the border into North Korea during a visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which separates it from its southern neighbor, and was apparently arrested.

The United Nations Command Post reported that “an American citizen crossed the border line with North Korea without permission while visiting the “Common Security Zone”, an area of ​​the DMZ under the control of the United Nations.”

“We believe he is currently in custody in the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and we are working with our counterparts in the APC (Korean People’s Army) to resolve this incident.” specified from the same source.

Inside the “Common Security Zone” located inside the DMZ, which separates the two Koreas for nearly 70 years, hundreds of tourists visit each day as part of organized tours.

The Korean War (1950–1953) ended not with a peace agreement, but an armistice, with the two neighbors still, technically, at war.

Former US President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2019 at the border village of Panmunjom and also stepped on North Korean soil while crossing the border.

“Panmonjom is the place this American chose as the most likely to pass into North Korea because it is the only possible place to pass through during his visit to the Joint Security Area,” Choi Gi told AFP. Professor of Military Studies. university.

South Korean television channel SBS reported that it was a US Army soldier. The South Korean Defense Ministry declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

After this group visited one of the site’s buildings, “this guy emitted a strong +ha ha ha+ and ran between some buildings”, a witness to the visit told CBS News.

“At first I thought it was a bad joke, but when he didn’t come back, I realized it was not a joke, then everyone reacted and it was crazy,” he added.

North Korea closed its borders at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and has not yet reopened them. Its security presence has also been significantly reduced to the “General Security Zone” along the border.

When AFP visited the “joint security zone” earlier this year, there were no North Korean guards visible.

But even in this configuration, under armistice protocol, no South Korean or American personnel may cross the border to pick up an American citizen.

Steve Tharp, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel who served in the area, admitted to Seoul-based specialist website NK News that he did not know how the North Koreans would react. On this incident: “There is very little data available” on such incidents, he stressed.

– “First contact after Covid” –

“This is the first contact after Covid (…). We don’t know what they think,” he told NK News.

The incident comes at a time when relations between the two Koreas are at an all-time low, diplomacy is at a standstill and Kim Jong Un is calling for further development of weapons, including tactical nuclear weapons, in his country.

South Korea and the United States have increased military cooperation in response to the missile tests and have held joint exercises with the latest generation fighter aircraft and strategic forces. These annual exercises are to be repeated next month.

The two countries are due to hold the first meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group in Seoul on Tuesday, aimed, according to the North Korean president, at “increasing nuclear deterrence against North Korea”.

Although Washington reiterated its offer of talks on Sunday, Kim Jong Un’s influential sister on Monday dismissed an offer to hold talks with the Americans over Pyongyang’s nuclear program as a “dream” on the eve of the meeting.

Number one North Korean last year described his country’s nuclear power status as “irreversible”.

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