Updated — 10 p.m. ET
An 85-year-old Korean War veteran held by North Korea as a war criminal arrived in San Francisco on Saturday to be reunited with his family, according to reports.
“I’m delighted,” Newman said. “I’m tired, but I’m ready to be with my family.”
Asked what he would do once he got home, he said, “I think I’ll be taking my shoes off.”
Asked if he would return to North Korea, Newman said: “Probably not.”
North Korea said Saturday it had deported Merrill Newman on humanitarian grounds after he was detained in October for “hostile acts” against the state.
The country said it released him after he apologized, was “sincere” in his repentance, and because of his age and health condition. North Korea accused Newman last week of being “a criminal” involved in the killing of civilians during the 1950-53 Korean War. It released a video showing the veteran reading an apology though it was unclear if Newman’s confession was coerced.
“I am very glad to be on my way home,” Newman told reporters after arriving at the Beijing airport from Pyongyang. “And I appreciate the tolerance the DPRK government has given to me to be on my way.”
North Korean officials removed Newman from a plane on Oct. 26 while he was preparing to leave the country after a 10-day tour. The Palo Alto, Calif., man’s friends and family say he was visiting the country as a tourist.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement, “We are pleased that Mr. Merrill Newman has been allowed to depart the DPRK and re-join his family.”
During the Korean war Newman reportedly worked with South Korean guerrillas as they fought behind enemy lines.
The U.S. also called on North Korea Saturday to release another American citizen, Kenneth Bae, who is believed to be the longest serving U.S. detainee in the state since the end of the Korean War. The Christian missionary was arrested in the city of Rajin on Nov. 3, 2012.
“We call on the DPRK once again to pardon and grant [Kenneth] Bae special amnesty and immediately release him,” the State Department said.
North Korea released the following statement on Saturday.
Pyongyang, December 7 (KCNA) — As already reported, a relevant institution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) detained and investigated U.S. citizen Merrill Edward Newman who entered the DPRK under the guise of a tourist to confirm the whereabouts of the spies and terrorists who had been trained and dispatched by him, an intelligence officer, during the last Korean War.
According to the investigation, Newman entered the DPRK with a wrong understanding of it and perpetrated a hostile act against it.
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 above-said institution deported him from the country from a humanitarian viewpoint.
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