War veteran detained by North Korea arrives in U.S.

85 year-old retied U.S. veteran, Merrill E. Newman (L), who was detained for over a month in North Korea, smiles as he arrives at San Francisco International Airport. Credit: Reuters
85 year-old retied U.S. veteran, Merrill E. Newman (L), who was detained for over a month in North Korea, smiles as he arrives at San Francisco International Airport.
Credit: Reuters

An 85-year-old Korean War veteran held for more than a month by North Korea as a war criminal arrived in San Francisco on Saturday to be reunited with his family

North Korea detained Merrill E. Newman for crimes it accused him of committing during the conflict six decades ago as a member of the U.S. special forces. He was released for humanitarian reasons after he apologized, the country’s state news agency said.

Newman flew to China, where he boarded an 11-and-a-half-hour flight home. His United Airlines airlines flight landed at about 9 a.m.

Accompanied by half a dozen police officers, Newman looked to be in good health and held his wife’s hand before walking up to a podium to briefly address the press at the airport’s arrivals hall.

“I’m delighted … it’s been a great homecoming,” a smiling Newman told reporters. “I’m tired, but I’m ready to be with my family.”

He was visiting North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated and unpredictable states, as a tourist when he was pulled off an Air Koryo flight in Pyongyang minutes before it was due to depart for Beijing on October 26.

A senior Obama administration official said the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang had been “heroic” in its efforts to get to see Newman but he suggested it was ultimately a mystery why the North Koreans chose to release him.

“Who knows? We can only speculate,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official added that “all efforts are now on (Kenneth) Bae,” referring to another U.S. citizen being detained by North Korea since November 2012.

Bae, a Korean American who worked as a Christian missionary, was convicted by North Korea in May of crimes against the state. He has been serving a 15-year hard-labor sentence.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is visiting South Korea, spoke with Newman after his release.

“It’s a positive thing they have done, but they have Mr. Bae, who has no reason being held in the North and should be released immediately and we are going to continue to demand his release as well,” Biden said.

Separately, a State Department spokeswoman declined comment on Newman’s well-being and treatment in North Korea, referring such questions to his family.

Asked by reporters in San Francisco how the food was during his detention, Newman replied, “healthy,” but he declined to answer other questions about his stay.

Asked if he would return to North Korea, he said: “Probably not.”

Newman served during the 1950-53 Korean War and worked with Korean anti-Communist guerrillas fighting behind the lines against the socialist North.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as the country is officially called, has called him a war criminal.

“He 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,” North Korea’s official KCNA news agency has said.

KCNA said Newman was released “taking into consideration his admittance of the act committed by him on the basis of his wrong understanding, apology made by him for it, his sincere repentance of it and his advanced age and health condition”.

The United States quickly welcomed North Korea’s decision to release Newman and called on Pyongyang to pardon Bae.

In Pasadena, California, Newman’s son, Jeffrey, said his father was “in excellent spirits and eager to be reunited with his family.”

“This is a great moment for us as a family and it will be even better when we are able to see him in a few hours,” Jeffrey Newman said, reading from a prepared statement. “After Merrill comes home and has a chance to get some well-deserved rest, we will have more to say about his unusual and difficult journey.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

VIDEO: Police seek suspect in molotov cocktail attack…

Police released surveillance video on Wednesday in hopes of tracking down a man who threw a molotov cocktail inside a Brooklyn corner store.

Local

City Council budget asks for 1,000 additional NYPD…

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled the City Council's budget priorities on Wednesday, including the extra cops for the NYPD at a cost of $94.3 million.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

Books

A debut novel about fate, love and moving…

Pia Padukone talks about her debut novel, "Where Earth Meets Water."

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

NFL

Giants 2014 regular season schedule

The Giants will play five prime-time games — against the Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Colts and Cowboys.

MLB

Jets 2014 regular season schedule

The Jets will play three prime-time games — against the Bears, Patriots and Dolphins — as well as a CBS national game in Week 2 at Green Bay.

NBA

Phil Jackson talked to Steve Kerr, pushes for…

Knicks president Phil Jackson spoke to the media for the first time since firing head coach Mike Woodson on Monday.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."