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US soldier charged with desertion after N. Korea release

US soldier Travis King has been charged with desertion for crossing into North Korea and a raft of other crimes including assaulting fellow soldiers and soliciting child pornography, US media reported on Thursday. The United States Army has brought eight charges against King, who had been stationed in South Korea, according to a document cited by multiple US outlets. The charges include kicking and punching other soldiers, possessing a child pornography video, providing false statements and the illegal possession of alcohol. Desertion carries a jail sentence of up to five years. The document did not provide details about any of the allegations, US media said. After a drunken bar fight and a stay in South Korean jail, Private Second Class King was meant to fly back to Texas in July. Instead of traveling to Fort Bliss for disciplinary hearings, he walked out of the Seoul-area airport, joined a Demilitarized Zone sightseeing trip and slipped over the massively fortified border where he was detained by the communist North’s authorities. Pyongyang had said that King had defected to North Korea to escape “mistreatment and racial discrimination in the US Army.” But after completing its investigation, North Korea “decided to expel” King in September for illegally intruding into its territory. Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said King would go through a “reintegration program” involving medical screenings and mental health assessments after he was returned to the United States. King’s border crossing occurred with relations between the two Koreas at a low point, with diplomacy stalled and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling for increased weapons development, including tactical nuclear warheads. The two Koreas remain technically at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a treaty.

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