North Korea has said US soldier Travis King crossed into its territory last month because of “inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination” in the army.
The 23-year-old private dashed across the border from South Korea on 18 July while on a guided tour.
Private King admitted to crossing illegally and wanted refuge in the North, state media reported.
Washington said it could not verify the claims, which are Pyongyang’s first public comments on the case.
Concerns have been growing for the welfare of the US soldier, who has not been heard from or seen since his crossing.
The US is trying to negotiate Private King’s release with the help of the UN Command, which runs the border area, and has a direct phoneline to the North Korean army.
Responding to the North Korean report on Wednesday, a Pentagon official said their priority was to have Private King brought home safely “through all available channels”.
North Korea has given no information on how it plans to treat Private King but said the soldier admitted he had “illegally” entered the country.
In a statement, published through the state news agency KCNA, did not say if he would face prosecution or punishment, and there was no mention of his current whereabouts or condition.
“During the investigation, Travis King confessed that he had decided to come over to the DPRK [North Korea] as he harboured ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US Army,” KCNA reported.
“He also expressed his willingness to seek refuge in the DPRK or a third country, saying that he was disillusioned at the unequal American society.” (BBC)