Family of Pvt. Travis King Eases Back on Claims of Being Ignored by the Army

A TV screen shows a file image of American soldier Travis King during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.
A TV screen shows a file image of American soldier Travis King during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, July 24, 2023. The deputy commander of the U.N. Command said Monday it has started conversations with North Korea over King who ran into the North last week across the Koreas' heavily armed border. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

The family of Pvt. Travis King is walking back claims that they have not been contacted by the Army since King went over to North Korea.

Jonathan Franks, a spokesman recently hired by the family, took responsibility for the shift in message, telling in a phone call Monday that "in the hectic end to the week, I got my wires crossed."

An Army spokesman told that the service was "confirming details with Travis' unit" but asserted it was "in regular contact with the family and endeavored to provide all possible information."

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On Monday, Cynthia Smith, an Army spokeswoman, told that, since King crossed into North Korea, "an Army commander continues to communicate with [King's mother] via telephone several times a week."

Smith did not immediately provide additional details when asked by about the frequency of the phone calls, duration of each conversation, and the name of the Army commander.

"The questions that she has, like any mother would have, are probably pretty difficult for the military to answer at the moment," Franks said.

Although Franks readily took responsibility for the mismatch in statements, he also noted that the family has struggled with the amount of attention they've received from national media since the story of King's departure broke on July 18, 2023.

Four days ago, King's mother, Claudine Gates, and his uncle appeared on "Good Morning America," where she said she couldn't "function" or "think straight."

"I was sure that at the end of the week, the issue was the Army was calling and not getting an answer, and it turned out they've been calling," Franks said.

Meanwhile, questions swirl about whether the military will consider King a prisoner of war -- a designation that carries certain protections and entitlements under the Geneva Conventions.

Franks says that former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has negotiated with North Korea on numerous occasions and helped arrange prisoner releases from other countries, has agreed to help in their case.

It was only on Aug. 1 -- two weeks after King disappeared into the reclusive dictatorship -- that the Pentagon announced North Korea had acknowledged the United Nations Command's inquiries. But the Pentagon's top spokesman, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, told reporters at the time that he didn't have "any substantial progress to read out."

Last week, Reuters reported that U.S. officials have yet to confer the status on King, citing his decision to cross into North Korea of his own free will and in civilian attire.

Speaking with reporters Monday, Ryder said that granting King that status is just one possibility -- there are others.

"That's all still under discussion right now," Ryder said, before noting that "the primary goal right now is just ensuring that Pvt. King is OK, that he's being taken care of."

A defense official told that they expect King to be treated humanely, in accordance with international law.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

Related: Frustration and Questions Swirl for Family of Soldier Who Ran into North Korea

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