US soldier reportedly detained in North Korea after wandering off at border

A US soldier was arrested by North Korea after crossing the demilitarized zone that separates the communist country from South Korea, officials familiar with the situation told NBC News on Tuesday.

The as-yet-unidentified soldier had been on a tour of the Joint Security Area run by a private tour company when he suddenly crossed the border, said one of three officials who confirmed the account.

United Nations Command security forces who had escorted the tour pursued him but were unable to catch him in time, the official said.

The White House is aware of the incident, which occurred amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program, but has yet to comment.

Earlier, the US-led UN command said a US national on an orientation tour had “crossed the military demarcation line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea without permission”.

“We believe he is currently being held in the DPRK and are working with our North Korean counterparts to resolve this incident,” he added. said in a tweetdesignating North Korea by its full name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and its military force, the Korean People’s Army.

Tours of the region have been ongoing since the 1960s and are organized by private companies, while the UN organizes its own tours for its personnel.

The area lies just 30 miles north of Seoul, the South Korean capital, and has enormous historical significance as the place where the armistice to end the Korean War was signed in 1953.

The news comes as the USS Kentucky, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived at the Busan naval base in South Korea on Tuesday.

“This stopover in Busan reflects the United States’ ironclad commitment to the Republic of Korea for our Extended Deterrence Guarantee,” U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement.

Courtney Kube And Corky Siemaszko contributed.

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