That means King, 23, is not covered by protections given to prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. According to the report, that decision is extremely sensitive for the government, considering its commitment to leaving "no soldier behind" in enemy-controlled territory.
As an active-duty soldier, he might appear qualified to be a POW or prisoner of war, as the U.S. and North Korea are technically still at war since the 1953 armistice.
But officials say he is disqualified from that process because he crossed into North Korea on his own free will and in civilian clothes, according to reports.
"The United States still has the option to call King a POW. A U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said there was no final decision and that the U.S. view on King's status could evolve as it learns more about his case," according to Reuters.
American soldier Travis King sprinted across the border into North Korea while on a tour of an inter-Korean truce village. North Korea’s state media has yet to comment on King, and the country has not responded to U.S. requests to clarify where he is being kept and what his condition is.
U.S. officials have expressed concern about King’s well-being, considering North Korea’s previous rough treatment of some American detainees. It could be weeks, or even months, before North Korea releases meaningful information about King, analysts say, as the country could drag out his detention to maximize leverage and add urgency to U.S. efforts to secure his release, according to The Associated Press.
Some experts say the North may try to use King for propaganda or as a bargaining chip to coax political and security concessions from Washington, possibly tying his release with the United States cutting back its military activities with South Korea.
This story was originally published by Jackson Danbeck at Scripps News Milwaukee in Wisconsin.
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