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30 Nov, 2013 10:46

N. Korea releases ‘written apology’ of US war veteran detained for ‘espionage’

N. Korea releases ‘written apology’ of US war veteran detained for ‘espionage’

North Korean media say that the detained US retiree and Korean War veteran is a “criminal” and “masterminded espionage and subversive activities” against Pyongyang. A video with the veteran reading out a written apology for his alleged crimes followed.

Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran from California was detained in October. It happened after he arrived in the country "under the guise of a tourist", North Korean official KCNA news agency said.

The war veteran tried to meet up with surviving soldiers he had trained during the Korean War to fight North Korea, according to the official statement. He also allegedly admitted to killing civilians and brought an e-book criticizing North Korea.

Newman "masterminded espionage and subversive activities against the DPRK and in this course he was involved in killings of service personnel of the Korean People's Army and innocent civilians," the North's official KCNA news agency said on Saturday, adding the man "admitted all his crimes and made an apology for them.”

The agency has also released a video which shows Newman reading the apology.

"After I killed so many civilians and [North Korean] soldiers and destroyed strategic objects in the DPRK during the Korean War, I committed indelible offensive acts against the DPRK government and Korean people," Newman said. 

It wasn’t clear what would happen to the man. However, his statement ends, "If I go back to [the] USA, I will tell the true features of the DPRK and the life the Korean people are leading."

This photo taken on November 9, 2013 and released on Novermber 30, 2013 by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows US citizen Merrill Newman reading a written apology for his alleged crimes both as a tourist and during his participation in the Korean War, while under detention in Pyongyang, after he was detained on 26 October shortly before take-off from Pyongyang following a 10 day tour. (AFP Photo/KCNA)

The apology can be regarded as the authorities trying to release Newman, quickly and without starting legal proceedings, Yoo Ho-Yeol, a professor of North Korea studies at Korea University in Seoul told AP.

The White House has called on North Korea to release US citizen Merrill Newman, who has been held in custody since last month, Reuters reported. Newman is an 85-year-old Korean War veteran.

“Given Mr. Newman's advanced age and health conditions, we urge the DPRK to release Mr. Newman so he may return home and reunite with his family,” said spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, Caitlin Hayden. The White House also asked for North Korea to release Kenneth Bae, an American who has been held in the country for more than a year.

According to his family, Newman had been on a 10-day organized private tour of North Korea. From phone calls and postcards he sent, the trip was going well and there was no indication of any kind of problem, the veteran’s son said.

The US State Department repeatedly warned the American citizens about traveling to North Korea over hostilities existing between the two countries.

North Korea has detained at least six US citizens since 2009.

Two of them were journalists accused of trespassing and hostile acts. After they were held for four months, former US president Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang to negotiate their release with former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

A few others were Americans of Korean origin accused of spreading Christianity. Korean-American missionary and tour operator Kenneth Bae was detained for over a year and in 2013 sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.