An American crossed the North Korean border during a visit

There are lines which it is better not to cross. But an American did not exercise this caution, according to the UN on Tuesday. The man crossed the border into North Korea during a visit to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates it from its southern neighbor and was apparently placed under arrest.

“An American citizen crossed the demarcation line without authorization” with North Korea while on a visit to the “common security zone”, the sector of the DMZ placed under the control of the United Nations, explained the UN command post. “We believe he is currently in custody in the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and we are working with our APC (Korean People’s Army) counterparts to resolve this incident,” it said. specified from the same source.

The border village of Panmunjom

Hundreds of tourists go every day, as part of organized trips, inside the “common security zone”, located inside the DMZ which has separated the two Koreas for nearly seventy years. The Korean War (1950-1953) having ended in an armistice, and not by a peace agreement, the two neighbors are still, technically, in a state of war.

Former US President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2019 in the border village of Panmunjom and even stepped on North Korean soil when crossing the demarcation line. “Panmunjom is the site that this American most likely chose to pass through in North Korea because it is the only possible place of escape during the visit to the joint security area,” said Choi Gi-il, professor of military studies at Sangji University.

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“Ha ha ha” and running between buildings

South Korean television channel SBS reported that it was a US Army soldier. Contacted by AFP, the South Korean Ministry of Defense declined to comment. “This man gave a loud ‘ha ha ha’ and ran between some buildings” after the group visited one of the buildings on the site, a witness to the visit told CBS News.

“At first I thought it was a bad joke but when he didn’t come back I realized it wasn’t a joke, then everyone reacted and it was madness,” he said. he said again. North Korea closed its borders at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and has yet to reopen them. Its security presence on its side of the border up to the “common security area” has also been considerably reduced.

Gray area on the reaction of the North Koreans

When AFP visited the “joint security area” earlier this year, no North Korean guards were visible there. But even in this configuration, under armistice protocols, no South Korean or American personnel can cross the border to pick up the American national.

Steve Tharp, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel who worked in the area, admitted to the Seoul-based specialist website NK News that he had no idea how the North Koreans would react. to this incident: there is “so little data available” on events like this, he stressed. “This is the first contact since the Covid (…). We don’t know what they are thinking,” he told NK News.

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