The United States has called on North Korea asking them to release an elderly U.S. military veteran who they have held in custody since last month. They accuse the U.S veteran of killing civilians during the Korean War 60 years ago.
The U.S. is quite concerned about the claims of North Korea and trying to work out a way to get Merrill E. Newman released. Newman, an 85-year old former special forces officer, was detained at the end of a trip to North Korea.
This could be quite complicated for the U.S. as they have no diplomatic relationship with North Korea, but they do have some plan in progress as they are trying to work a solution through Swedish embassy, whose officials have been granted access to visit Newman.
“On November 30, the DPRK permitted the Embassy of Sweden, protecting power for issues involving U.S. citizens in North Korea, consular access to U.S. citizen Merrill Newman,” a State Department official said in a statement.
“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,” the official added, using the acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Back in North Korea, Newman has been portrayed as a criminal and the state media has released a video where Newman is making a full confession and apology as though they are still in state of war.
In the patchy video, Newman appears composed and is shown reading aloud from a handwritten statement dated Nov 9, 2013 in a wood-panelled meeting room. At the end, he bows and places a finger print on the document.
“I realise that I cannot be forgiven for my offensives (offenses) but I beg for pardon on my knees by apologising for my offensives (offenses) sincerely toward the DPRK government and the Korean people and I want not punish me (I wish not to be punished),” Newman, who has a heart rhythm disorder, was quoted as saying by KCNA.
One of the world’s most isolated states, North Korea nourishes memories of the 1950-53 war with South Korea and the United States to keep its impoverished people distracted and the family of founder Kim Il Sung in power. His grandson, Kim Jong Un, is North Korea’s current ruler.
It remains technically in a state of war with the South and with the United States because the 1950-53 conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.
Washington has had little public comment on Newman’s case. Until Saturday, the State Department had declined to provide any details other than confirming the detention of a U.S. citizen.
North Korea is also holding another American, Christian missionary Kenneth Bae of Korean decent, arrested last year and sentenced in May to 15 years of hard labour on charges of committing hostile acts against the state. The White House also expressed concern for Bae and renewed its call for his release on Saturday.