North Korea has decided to deport US citizen Merrill Newman, who had been detained in the country since October.
State news agency KCNA says Merrill Newman was expelled on “humanitarian grounds” after confessing to “crimes” in the 1950-53 war and “apologizing”.
Merrill Newman, 85, had been held on charges of “hostile acts” against the North, while visiting as a tourist.
The US state department welcomed the decision to free Merrill Newman, who has now arrived in Beijing.
“We are pleased that Mr. Merrill Newman has been allowed to depart the DPRK (North Korea) and re-join his family. We welcome the DPRK’s decision to release him,” said state department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
“I’m very glad to be on my way home,” Merrill Newman told Japanese reporters after arriving in the Chinese capital.
“And I appreciate the tolerance the DPRK government has given to me to be on my way. I feel good. I want to go home to see my wife.”
Last week, KCNA said Merrill Newman had ordered the deaths of North Korean soldiers and civilians in the Korean War.
Although Merrill Newman did serve during the Korean War, his family says he is the victim of mistaken identity.
Merril Newman – a pensioner from Palo Alto, California – had been held in North Korea since being taken off a plane as he prepared to leave the country on October 26, following a 10-day tourist visit.
In a video released by North Korean authorities last week, Merrill Newman was shown reading his alleged apology, dated November 9.
It claims he was an “adviser of the Kuwol Unit of the UN Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command” – an apparent reference to one of the special operations units acting against the North.
Merrill Newman apparently confessed to trying to contact surviving soldiers during his trip as a tourist.
The statement added: “Please forgive me.”
However, Merrill Newman’s family said there must have been “some dreadful misunderstanding” as another veteran, also named Merrill Newman, was awarded a Silver Star medal for his efforts during the Korean War.
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