UK & World News

  • 7 December 2013, 10:23

Merrill Newman: North Korea Frees War Veteran

North Korea has released an American war veteran detained for more than a month for "hostile acts" against the country.

Merrill Newman, 85, was freed because he had apologised for his crimes during the Korean War and because of his age and medical condition, the country's official KCNA news agency said.

He has not yet spoken publicly and it was unclear from the report where he had been deported to.

The US State Department said it welcomed North Korea's decision, but called for the release of another American, Kenneth Bae, who has been held for over a year.

The move came as US Vice President Joe Biden visited South Korea, the last stop on a three-country Asia tour that has already taken him to Japan and China.

Pyongyang admitted last week that it was holding Mr Newman, saying he was detained after entering the country "under the guise of a tourist".

Mr Newman, from California, was detained on October 26 shortly before take-off from Pyongyang following a 10-day tour.

KCNA said he had committed crimes both as a tourist and during his participation in the Korean War six decades ago, and published an apology running to nearly 600 words in which he allegedly confessed to his crimes.

There was speculation his alleged confession shown on state TV was coerced.

Pyongyang has been accused of previously coercing statements from detainees, and it was riddled with stilted English and grammatical errors, such as "I want not punish me".

North Korea has detained at least six Americans since 2009 and five of them have either been released or deported after prominent Americans like former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter travelled to Pyongyang.

It is still holding Mr Bae, a 45-year-old tour operator, who was sentenced to 15 years' hard labour on charges of seeking to topple the government.     

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