“Is he withdrawing? I think he’s running from his problems.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said on Sunday he was concerned that North Korea would demand concessions from the United States in exchange for the release of American Travis King, who fled across the border from South Korea last week.
“Is he quitting? I think he’s running from his problems,” McCaul, R-Texas, told ABC “This Week” co-host Martha Raddats, referring to the pending discipline of King, who was detained in South Korea for nearly two months following a local dispute.
“It’s the wrong place. But we’re seeing it with Russia, China, Iran — when they take an American, especially a soldier, captive, they exact a price,” McCall said. “That’s what I’m worried about.”
King, a 23-year-old Army Private 2nd Class, was on his way back to the United States earlier last week when he instead left an airport in Seoul and joined a tour group heading to the border between North and South Korea.
He was scheduled to fly to Texas to face “pending administrative separation proceedings for foreign convictions” and was recently released after 47 days in a South Korean detention facility.
Since King’s entry into the country, North Korea — which has no formal ties with the United States — has not responded to inquiries about his status, as the Biden administration has continued to press. In a statement through the military, King’s family said they “request privacy as we work for the safe return of our son.”
It is not publicly clear what prompted King to flee, although an official said last year that he would not return to the United States.
“I’m sure he wasn’t treated well,” McCall said Sunday. “I think it’s a big mistake on his part and hopefully we can get him back.”
The King incident comes as the U.S. deploys a nuclear-powered submarine to South Korea for the first time in four decades. The USS Kentucky’s presence has drawn opposition from North Korea, where Radatts toured exclusively from North Korea, which tested an intercontinental ballistic missile earlier this month.
“Is that a good idea?” Raddats pressed the submarine’s presence on McCall. “Why now?”
“It’s a projection of the strength we need right now to stop the invasion,” McCall said. “We’re seeing a lot of aggression — not just sea-launched rockets from North Korea and Japan, but also the aggression we’re seeing from China. [regarding Taiwan].”
“North Korea needs to know that we have superiority in submarines and nuclear subs. We need to get it into their heads and into President Xi’s head that if they do anything militarily aggressive, there will be consequences,” McCall added, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Asked what else the U.S. could do to blunt North Korea’s nuclear ambitions after decades of failed negotiations and pressure, McCaul acknowledged that the cycle has not been successful. “It will never work … and you’re right,” he told Raddats.
“It’s very complicated,” he said, while pointing to North Korea’s potential role in future military operations with China, adding that “more creative diplomacy” would be an alternative.
“I think you see why [Indo-]”The Pacific Command fleet is there to deter and disrupt North Korea in the event of a conflict with Taiwan,” he said.