U.S. national crosses into North Korea

A U.S. national crossed into North Korea and was believed to be in the custody of the country’s forces, the United Nations Command, which operates the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, said Tuesday.

“A U.S. National on a JSA orientation tour crossed, without authorization, the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). We believe he is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our KPA counterparts to resolve this incident.”

Local media said a foreign tourist who was visiting the Military Demarcation Line crossed over at 3:27 p.m. local time (7:27 a.m. Eastern).

A person who said they witnessed the event and was part of the same tour group told CBS News they had just visited one of the buildings at the site when “this man gives out a loud ‘ha ha ha,’ and just runs in between some buildings.”

The witness said the event organizers and others on the tour didn’t immediately react to the man’s actions.

“I thought it was a bad joke at first, but when he didn’t come back, I realized it wasn’t a joke, and then everybody reacted and things got crazy.”

The witness said there were no North Korean soldiers visible where the man ran, and that they were told there haven’t been since the coronavirus pandemic, when the North attempted to completely seal its borders to the outside world.  

They said after the man ran across the border, the tour group was rushed back to the Freedom House for everyone to give statements and then taken to their bus.

“I’m telling you this because it actually hit me quite hard,” the witness said. “It was on the way back in the bus, and we got to one of the checkpoints…. Someone said we were 43 going in and 42 coming back.”

The demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea is one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world. The two Koreas remain technically at war, as fighting in the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice agreement, not a full peace treaty. The United States has maintained a large troop presence in South Korea ever since.     

Tension between the isolated North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un and the U.S., along with America’s key Asian allies South Korea and Japan, has soared over the last decade. After a false start at diplomacy under former President Donald Trump, the North has carried out a steady litany of missile and rocket tests — most of which are condemned by the West as violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions. 

U.S. officials have made it clear they expect North Korea to carry out a new test of a nuclear weapon at any point, which would be a significant escalation of what the West considers Kim’s provocations.

North Korea fires two short-range ballistic missiles, White House announces new sanctions


North Korea, on the other hand, regularly warns the U.S. against holding joint military exercises with South Korea, which it claims are rehearsals for an invasion. 

U.S. nuclear submarine visits South Korea

The border incident on Tuesday came as the U.S. military confirmed the arrival in a South Korean port of the nuclear-armed submarine USS Kentucky. The visit was the first by a U.S. nuclear submarine to South Korea in four decades, and while it was announced in advance, North Korea was likely to claim it as another American provocation. 

South Korea’s Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup said the sub’s visit highlighted Washington’s commitment to the “extended deterrence” of the threat posed by North Korea. 

The U.S. Navy’s Ohio class, nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky, seen here in a file photo, can carry up to 24 Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles, each with multiple independently-targeted warheads.

PO1 Amanda Gray/U.S. Navy

The nuclear-armed sub sitting in the port of Busan “shows the allies’ overwhelming capability and posture against North Korea,” Lee said.

About a week ago, Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister and top adviser Kim Yo Jong warned the U.S. that any perceived reinforcement of the American commitment to defend South Korea would prompt the North to “go farther away from the negotiating table.”

She said North Korea was ready “for resolutely countering any acts of violating its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and warned the U.S. to “stop its foolish act of provoking (the North) even by imperiling its security.”

CBS News’ Emmet Lyons and Tucker Reals contributed to this report. 


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