North Korea has deported an elderly American prisoner who was held in the communist country for more than a month.
Merrill Newman, 85, who is a war veteran, was visiting the country when he was nabbed and accused of hostile acts against the country.
North Korea state media said the release was due to Newman’s apology for the alleged crimes during the Korean War, his advanced age, and medical problems.
The American veteran was taken off a plane on October 26, after a 10-day visit to the nation.
Newman left North Korea and arrived in Beijing, China later in the day. He was met by US Embassy employees.
“I’m very glad to be on my way home,” Newman told Japanese media at Beijing airport, according to Reuters. “I feel good, I feel good. I want to go home to see my wife.”
Vice President Joe Biden, who is visiting South Korea, praised North Korea for releasing Newman, adding he had no role in securing his release, according to Fox News.
Biden reportedly offered to give Newman a ride home on Air Force 2, but the veteran didn’t accept and will take a commercial flight to get home faster.
“We are pleased that Mr. Merrill Newman has been allowed to depart the (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and re-join his family,” Deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement following Newman’s release. “We welcome the DPRK’s decision to release him.”
Newman’s family had been actively trying to secure the 85-year-old’s release and over the weekend received news that he had received a visit from the Swedish ambassador to North Korea, who reported he was in good health.
It is assumed that North Korea coerced Newman to read a “confession”, which was televised on state television on November 9, admitting to his crimes.
Pyongyang has been accused of forcing detainees into confession in the past and Newman’s four page statement was full of grammatically incorrect sentences such as, “I want not punish me,”
“I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people,” Newman supposedly wrote, adding: “Please forgive me.”
Pyongyang accused Newman of returning to meet with surviving soldiers he had trained during the Korean War to fight North Korea, and that he admitted to killing civilians and brought an e-book criticizing North Korea, Fox News reported.
North Korea does not recognize the truce the Korean war ended with and remains at war with the South and the US.