SEOUL (REUTERS) – North Korea said on Saturday it had arrested US citizen Merrill E. Newman for “hostile acts”against the state and accused him of being “a criminal” who was involved in the killing of civilians during the 1950-53 Korean War.
Mr 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,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
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.
“He admitted all his crimes and made an apology for them,”KCNA said.
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 advisor 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.
Mr Newman, who had been visiting North Korea as a tourist, has been held in Pyongyang since officials took him off an Air Koryo plane that was scheduled to leave the country on October 26.
Mr Newman is a retiree from Palo Alto in California, and the US State Department has refused to provide any details of the detention.
North Korea has been holding another US citizen and a Christian missionary of Korean decent, arrested last year andsentenced in May to 15 years of hard labour on charges of committing hostile acts against the state.