EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – North Korea has confirmed custody of American Soldier Travis King for the first time.

Pvt. 2nd class, Travis King, 23, had been stationed at Fort Bliss and was set to return before fleeing to North Korea.

King had just been released from a South Korean prison where he’d been held on assault charges and was facing additional military disciplinary action back in the United States.

NBC News reports that a statement from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) alleges that King was trying to escape “maltreatment and racial discrimination in the U.S. Army” and added that he was “disillusioned with the unequal American society.”

However, NBC News reports the U.S. State Department says they can’t verify the claims made by North Korea.

This isn’t the first time El Paso has had a tie to someone illegally crossing into North Korea.

Back in 2014, Arturo Pierre Martinez from El Paso illegally crossed into North Korea and denounced U.S. policies.

Political expert and the director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies, Dr. Pineda, spoke with KTSM about both people who crossed into North Korea having El Paso ties.

“In that first case with the El Pasoan, it was a combination, I think, of some psychological issues on his (Martinez’s) behalf, and then I think just the proximity to the border. In the case with the soldier, this is a little bit different because this was a sort of an act of attempt to leave his post,” said Pineda.

However, he calls the El Paso of it all a coincidence.

“I think this is just sheer coincidence. I mean, if anything, it is interesting that the folks that are in a border community that sort of see a border with border policing would be so cavalier about the way they act. And so, I think it’s really about the intent, less about their geographic connections,” said Pineda.