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U.S. soldier believed to be in custody after crossing into North Korea

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A U.S. Army soldier has been detained by North Korea after crossing the border from South Korea, according to the United Nations Command and the South Korean army on Tuesday. The U.S. national was taking part in a tour to the Joint Security Area, a border village in a demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas where soldiers from both the north and south stand guard.

The U.S. soldier was reportedly not authorized to cross into North Korean territory and is likely to be in custody, where conditions for detainees are reported to be some of the worst in the world.

A U.S. army soldier has been detained by North Korea after crossing the border from South Korea, according to the United Nations Command and the South Korean army.
FILE – A South Korean building complex is seen in the background as North Korean soldiers guard the truce village at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas in Panmunjom, North Korea, June 20, 2018. – Credit: AP Images

“A U.S. National on a JSA orientation tour crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident,” the U.N. Command tweeted, in both English and Korean.

Cases of Americans or South Koreans crossing into North Korea are rare.

In 2018, North Korea released the last three known American detainees to the U.S. at a time when Kim Jong Un and former president Donald Trump were on good terms.

The high-stakes diplomacy collapsed in 2019 over U.S. sanctions on North Korea and tensions between the two sides have stayed high since.

The U.S. State Department travel advisory bans U.S. nationals from entering North Korea “due to the continuing serious risk of arrest and long term detention of U.S. nationals.”

The ban was put in place after U.S. college student Otto Warmbier was detained in North Korea while on a tour of the country in 2015. He was released from prison in 2017, but was returned to the U.S. in a coma and died days after.

The U.N. Command says they are working with North Korean officials to try and free the U.S. soldier.

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