When North Korea first reported Travis King was in is hands this summer, it noted the defector sought refuge in the DPRK or a “third country” due to “inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army,” North Korea News reports. (See the declassified files on previous US Army defectors to the North.)
The news service reports this could have been a hint Pyongyang may want to be rid of the defector, while avoiding sending him back to the “imperialist” Americans. “By stating that King was open to going to a ‘third country,’ North Korea implied that it could send him on his way at some point. North Korea could lose face if they gave someone who reportedly claimed to be a victim of racism back to the dreaded U.S. imperialists. Sending King to a third country would allow Pyongyang to claim the moral high ground, while still allowing the DPRK to wash its hands of him.”
Worth remembering is that 21 American POWs during the Korean War, the “turncoats,” opted not to return to the US at the end of the war. They were sent to China and most eventually returned to America.