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White House Urges N. Korea to Release Elderly American

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The White House is calling on North Korea to release an elderly American and veteran of the Korean War who has been held in North Korean custody since late October.

A White House statement Saturday urged Pyongyang to allow 85-year-old Merrill Newman, who suffers from a heart condition, to "return home and reunite with his family."

Newman, a California native, was visiting North Korea with a valid visa when he was removed from an airplane October 26 as he prepared to depart the country.

Earlier Saturday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency confirmed it had detained Newman. The report said he had apologized for "crimes" during the Korean war, and for "hostile acts" against the state during his October visit.

KCNA posted a video of Newman reading the purported apology aloud. It was not clear whether the American wrote the statement or if he was coerced into writing it.



The White House statement also called for the release of Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who is serving a 15-year prison term for "state subversion."

The 46-year-old Christian preacher was detained in November 2012, after entering the country as a tour operator. His family says he has diabetes and is in ill health.

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FILE - President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland en route to Southeast Asia, November 17, 2012.

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