American soldier Travis King returns to the US after being freed by North Korea

Gonzalo Jimenez

(CNN) — US Army soldier Travis King is back in the US after being released by North Korea and landed in San Antonio, Texas, early Thursday, according to a Defense Department official.

King arrived on a U.S. military flight and landed at Kelly Field at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston around 1:30 a.m. ET, the official said.

A CNN camera captured what appears to be King being escorted off the plane by several people. They met officials waiting on the grounds and took King to another area of ​​the military base, out of view of our camera.

About two months ago King crossed the military demarcation line into North Korea.

North Korean state media KCNA reported this Wednesday that the state had decided to “expel” King.

North Korea decided to “expel” US Army soldier Travis King, according to state media

A screenshot from a video shows an individual who appears to be Travis King, third from right, disembarking after landing at Kelly Field near San Antonio on September 28, 2023. (Credit: CNN)

U.S. military officials have said King “intentionally and without authorization” crossed into North Korea in July. He had been released from a detention center in South Korea just over a week before crossing the demarcation line, a punishment that appeared to stem from an October 2022 incident in which he allegedly pushed and punched a victim in the face in a club in Seoul, according to court documents.

U.S. officials described “intense diplomacy” with multiple countries in the lead-up to King’s release from North Korea, culminating in King’s transfer this Wednesday across the border into China and then into U.S. military custody.

US officials previously told CNN that the US made no concessions to North Korea for King’s transfer.

King is expected to be taken to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, which has a Department of Defense program known as PISA (Post Isolation Support Activities) to help Americans acclimate to normal life after being detained. . Both Trevor Reed and Brittney Griner went there after being released from detention in Russia.

China provided “necessary assistance”

China said it provided “necessary assistance” for the release of US Army soldier Travis King at the request of North Korea and the United States, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said at a press conference on Thursday. regular this Thursday.

Mao added that China provided such assistance on the basis of humanitarianism.

Pyongyang decided this Wednesday to “expel” King, who crossed its territory in July, according to North Korean state media.

China’s role was limited to helping facilitate King’s transfer out of North Korea but otherwise played no “mediating role,” a U.S. official added.

—Wayne Chang and Mengchen Zhang contributed to this report.

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