The Korean Central News Agency released the following report on Saturday:
A relevant institution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recently put in custody U.S. citizen Merrill Edward Newman who committed hostile acts against the DPRK after entering the country under the guise of a tourist.
After entering the DPRK as a member of tourists’ group in October he perpetrated acts of infringing upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and slandering its socialist system, quite contrary to the purpose of tour.
American held by N. Korea apologizes for ‘hostile acts’; US renews calls to free him
Nicholas Wright / Palo Alto Weekly via AP, file
Merrill Newman, a retired finance executive and Red Cross volunteer, in Palo Alto, Calif. in 2005.
North Korea on Saturday released video showing detained U.S. citizen Merrill E. Newman reading an apology for “hostile acts” against the state – a move that prompted new calls from the U.S. for his release.
A statement published by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said that during a recent visit to the country, the 85-year-old war veteran attempted to meet with any surviving soldiers he had trained during the Korean War to fight North Korea, admitted he was “a criminal” who was involved in the killing of civilians during the 1950-53 Korean War, and was carrying 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,” KCNA said. “He admitted all his crimes and made an apology for them.”
DPRK is short for the North’s official name: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea is technically still at war with the South and the United States, as a truce — not a peace treaty — was signed to end the Korean conflict.
In a separate dispatch, KCNA carried what it said was a statement of apology by Newman, made after being detained.
“During the Korean War, I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people as adviser of the Kuwol Unit of the U.N. Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command,” it said.
The unit appears to refer to one of the special operations units of partisan, or irregular, fighters acting against the North.
There was no direct word from Newman, and his alleged apology, which was dated Nov. 9, couldn’t be independently confirmed. Pyongyang has been accused of previously coercing statements from detainees.
Hours after the release of the “apology,” Obama administration officials appealed for his release.
“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 a U.S. State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official said North Korea had permitted representatives of the Swedish Embassy consular access to Newman on Saturday, but provide no detail about his condition.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, likewise called on Pyongyang to free Newman.
Some experts said the fact that North Korea broadcast the statement from Newman is likely a prelude to his release.
Steven Weber, professor of political science at UC Berkeley, told NBC News on Saturday that he expects Newman will be released within a few days and that his detention was a “publicity stunt” by an attention-hungry North Korean regime. Weber said the U.S. should expect more stunts like this in the near future, especially with American delegates presently focused on a short-term deal with Iran over its nuclear program.