N. Korea says American Merrill Newman has been 'deported'

11:19 PM, Dec 6, 2013   |    comments
Merrill Newman (AP)
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(USA Today) -- An 85-year-old U.S. tourist and war veteran has been deported by North Korea more than a month after being detained for alleged hostile acts, North Korea says.

The State Department released a statement expressing approval with the decision by North Korea to deport Merrill Newman.

"We welcome the decision to release him," read the statement from Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman.

North Korean state media says officials decided to release the veteran and tourist because he apologized for his alleged war crimes, and because of his age and medical condition.

It's not clear if Merrill's confession was coerced. He was taken off a plane Oct. 26 by North Korean authorities while preparing to leave the country after a 10-day tour.

Newman has yet to speak publicly. Vice President Joe Biden praised North Korea for releasing Merrill and said the elderly tourist is now in China.

Harf said North Korea should continue to take positive steps.

"This positive decision by the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) throws into sharper relief the cotinuing detention of Mr. Kenneth Bae, who has been in DPRK custody for over a year," the statement continued, making reference to Bae, a South Korea native and U.S. citizen who is the longest serving American detainee in North Korea since the Korean War.

"We call on the DPRK once again to pardon and grant Mr. Bae special amnesty and immediately release him as a humanitarian gesture so that he too can return home to his family. The U.S. government will continue to work actively on his case."

In the statement, Harf thanked the government of Sweden for its diplomatic efforts with North Korea.

Regarding Merrill, North Korean state media says officials decided to release the veteran and tourist because he Merrill Newman had apologized for his alleged war crimes and because of his age and medical condition.

It's not clear if Merrill's confession was coerced. He was taken off a plane Oct. 26 by North Korean authorities while preparing to leave the country after a 10-day tour.

Before Merrill, North Korea has detained at least six Americans since 2009.

A former group of South Korean guerrillas say Newman advised them as they fought behind enemy lines during the war. Some members have expressed surprise that Newman would take the risk of visiting North Korea given his role with their group, which is still loathed and remembered in the North.

(USA Today)

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