DALLAS (AP) — An American soldier who sprinted into North Korea and was held there for two months before being returned to the U.S. is set to undergo medical testing and extensive questioning about his time in the isolated country before potentially facing charges under the military justice system.
Pvt. Travis King ran across the heavily fortified border from South Korea in July and became the first American detained in North Korea in nearly five years.
Pyongyang abruptly announced Wednesday that it would expel King, and he was flown to an Air Force base in Texas on Thursday.
Here’s what we know about King, his mysterious entry into North Korea and what’s happened in similar cases.
WHO IS HE, AND WHAT HAPPENED?
King, 23, joined the Army in January 2021 and was in South Korea as a cavalry scout with the 1st Armored Division, according to military officials.
On July 10 he was released from a South Korean prison after serving nearly two months on assault charges. He was set to be sent to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he could have faced potential additional disciplinary actions and discharge.
Officials said King was taken to the airport and escorted as far as customs. But instead of getting on the plane, he left and later joined a civilian tour of the Korean border village of Panmunjom. He bolted across the border, which is lined with guards and often crowded with tourists, in the afternoon.
North Korea’s state news agency said King, who is Black, had said he entered the country because he “harbored ill feelings against inhuman mistreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army.”
U.S. officials have cast doubt on the authenticity of those statements, and King’s mother, Claudine Gates of Racine, Wisconsin, told The Associated Press she never heard him express such views.
It remains unclear why King crossed the border and why Pyongyang — which has tense relations with Washington over its nuclear program, its support for Russia’s war in Ukraine and other issues — agreed to release him.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The coming weeks are likely to hold a battery of medical and phycological examinations as well as intelligence debriefings about his time in North Korea, a country few Americans enter.
King arrived early Thursday at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center, according to the Pentagon. Along with the testing and questioning, he will also get a chance to see family.
King’s movements will likely be controlled while commanders learn what they can from him and decide what to do next, said Rachel VanLandingham, a national security law expert and professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. She said the probable next steps are formal charges under the military justice system, but they could take months.
“Based on their track record, I think they’re going to court-martial him,” said VanLandingham, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, adding that the evidence against King appears “overwhelming” but he could also be discharged without charges.
King was declared AWOL but not considered a deserter. Punishment for going AWOL or desertion vary based on a number of factors that are complicated by King’s two-month absence and ultimate handover by North Korean.
The fact that he spent weeks in the secretive country would be unlikely to give him any leverage with the U.S. military over his punishment, said Gary Solis, a former Marine Corps. prosecutor and military judge.
“I don’t think that he would have been allowed to have seen anything of strategic or even tactical value that he might use as a bargaining chip,” Solis said. “I think he’s out of luck.”
WHAT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE IN SIMILAR CASES?
The last active-duty soldier returned to the U.S. by an adversary was Bowe Bergdahl, VanLandingham said.
Bergdahl was 23 when he left his Army post in Afghanistan in 2009, was abducted by the Taliban and was held captive and tortured for nearly five years. He later said he left to report what he saw as poor leadership within his unit.
Several U.S. servicemembers were wounded while searching for Bergdahl. After his return in a prisoner swap, he was charged in military court with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl pleaded guilty to both charges in 2017, but a judge vacated his conviction this year.
VanLandingham said that while the two cases are not identical, the fact that the Army pursued a court-martial against Bergdahl suggests it will against King as well.
Officials said King was released in good health, unlike Otto Warmbier, another American recently held in North Korea.
Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, was seized by North Korean authorities from a tour group in January 2016, convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
He spent 17 months in captivity before he was released and flown home in a coma, dying shortly afterward in June 2017.
While not providing a clear reason for Warmbier’s brain damage, North Korea denied accusations by Warmbier’s family that he was tortured.
Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber in Austin contributed to this report.
Brussels asks airlines to agree on standard luggage sizes
The European Commission has asked airlines to standardise their luggage sizes in order to make things simpler for travellers.
A lack of common measures often causes confusion among airlines’ customers and leads to hidden extra costs.
Many people find it difficult to understand what size items are allowed on board for free, prompting the Commission on Wednesday to make the request to airlines.
Earlier this year, the European Parliament asked for a standardisation of airlines’ carry-on luggage rules. But instead of proposing measures, the Commission said it prefers to let the industry come up with the rules itself.
“This information should be provided to the travellers from the very beginning to know exactly when you buy a ticket what you are actually buying and what kind of luggage you can bring either on board or in the haul?” Adina Vălean, the European Commissioner for Transport told reporters in Brussels.
“That being said, we reserve our right that, if nothing happens in a reasonable amount of time, we will step in.”
At the same time, the Commission also proposed a series of measures to reinforce passengers’ rights legislation, with a special focus on the reimbursement of delayed or cancelled trips, after it discovered gaps when it comes to intermodal trips.
One way the Commission is trying to solve this is via a standard EU-wide reimbursement and compensation form.
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Nordic Crime Novel ‘Big Brother’ Set to be Adapted for TV by Act 4 (EXCLUSIVE)
Icelandic production company Act 4 is set to turn Skuli Sigurdsson’s award-winning Nordic crime novel “Big Brother” (“Stóri bróðir”) into a TV drama.
Act 4, founded earlier this year by a group of top Icelandic industry execs, has optioned Sigurdsson’s chilling debut novel with actor, producer and Act 4 co-founder Olafur Darri Olafsson (“The Tourist”) on board as showrunner and executive producer.
“Big Brother” tells the story of a detective and an investigative journalist who set out to solve a “mysterious case,” according to the logline. “Men are being severely beaten on every full moon by what seems like the same perpetrator. But the story is also told from the perspective of the perpetrator, who considers his crimes an act of retribution for old wrongdoings.”
The story asks tough questions of its audience when it comes to crime and punishment as well as being a critique of society’s failure to properly deal with sexual violence.
“I read ‘Big Brother’ last summer after hearing good things from multiple source,” said Olafsson, who is next set to appear in Season 2 of Apple TV+ hit “Severance.” “I was immediately drawn to the book, it is fantastically written, fast-paced and just felt so right to develop into a series. Our team at Act 4 is really excited about bringing Skuli’s book to the big screen and we know that fans of crime dramas will love it. It’s been a long time since I read such a fantastic debut novel as ‘Big Brother.’ I would also suggest that people watch out for Skuli’s books in the future as he just released his sophomore novel, ‘The Man from São Paulo.’”
Sigurdsson said: “I am most pleased and honored that Act 4 will be making a television series based on my novel ‘Big Brother.’ This has been in the works for some time and it is a pleasure to begin the journey. It’s an honour to work with a production firm as excellent as Act 4. Their vision for ‘Big Brother’ is strong and I look forward to the undertaking with Olafur Darri and company.”
As Variety exclusively reported, Act 4 was launched in January by Olafsson, Hörður Rúnarsson (“Black Sands”), Jónas Margeir Ingólfsson (“The Minister”) and Birkir Blær Ingólfsson (“Thin Ice”) after they joined forces with a group of international investors to develop, finance and produce high-end Nordic content.
Imprisoned US Marine vet Paul Whelan assaulted over ‘political differences,’ Russian news agency reports
New details have emerged after imprisoned U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan was allegedly assaulted by another inmate in a Russian prison.
Whelan, whose family insists he is being held on false charges, suffered an eye injury in a quarrel with another convict, the Mordovian Federal Penitentiary Service told Russian news agency Interfax.
The agency reported Whelan’s assailant is a “convict from Turkey” who allegedly struck the U.S. national “on the basis of political differences.”
“Employees of the institution immediately stopped the illegal actions and took the participants in the conflict to the medical unit,” the Federal Penitentiary Service said, according to Interfax. Whelan is reported to have an abrasion under his eye.
US MARINE VETERAN PAUL WHELAN JAILED IN RUSSIA ATTACKED IN PRISON, FAMILY SAYS
According to the report, the incident was recorded through video surveillance, and an investigation is being conducted for review by police in Mordovia.
The Whelan family said Paul was assaulted at a labor camp on Tuesday afternoon. David Whelan said his brother was working at a sewing table when a new inmate blocked part of the production line and Paul asked him to move out of the way.
“After repeated requests, the prisoner hit Paul in the face, breaking Paul’s glasses in the process, and attempted to hit him a second time,” David Whelan said in an email statement. “Paul stood up to block the second hit and other prisoners intervened to prevent the prisoner continuing to attack Paul.”
David Whelan said his brother has asked local prosecutors to investigate the alleged attack.
BIDEN PRISONER EXCHANGE FOR BRITTNEY GRINER LEAVES BEHIND MARINE VETERAN PAUL WHELAN — AGAIN
“He is also concerned that these sorts of attacks can occur any time and, due to the various sharp implements in the workshop including the shears the other prisoner was holding today, could escalate into a far more serious attack,” David Whelan said. “Paul is a target because he is an American and anti-American sentiment is not uncommon among the other prisoners.”
The U.S. State Department told Fox News Digital the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been in contact with Paul and understands he is receiving medical treatment.
The State Department also called on Russia to release Whelan and to ensure all U.S. citizens being detained there are safe.
Whelan was arrested in December 2018 on charges of espionage and spying for the U.S. government and sentenced to 16 years. He and the U.S. have denied the charges as the 53-year-old remains imprisoned at a labor camp in Russia’s Mordovia republic.
WHO IS VIKTOR BOUT, RUSSIA’S ‘MERCHANT OF DEATH’ FREED IN PRISONER SWAP FOR BRITTNEY GRINER?
On Dec. 28, 2018, while staying in a hotel in the Moscow area, Whelan was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service. At the time, he had reportedly arrived in the Russian capital to attend the wedding of a friend and act as a travel guide for the groom’s family. However, Russian officials claimed that Whelan had met with an unnamed Russian citizen who gave the former Marine a USB drive containing classified material.
He was left out of the highly publicized prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia last year in which WNBA player Brittney Griner was freed from Russian custody for the release of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death.”
Fox News Digital’s Louis Casiano contributed to this report.
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