The White House is urging North Korea to release Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old U.S. veteran of the Korean War who has been held in North Korea since October.
Given 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," Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said Saturday, according to multiple media outlets.
The White House also urged North Korean authorities to release Kenneth Bae, an American who has been held in Korea for more than a year, Reuters reported. "We remain deeply concerned about the welfare of the U.S. citizens held in custody," Hayden said in the statement.
Earlier Saturday, North Korea's state media claimed Newman — a retired finance executive — apologized for alleged crimes during the Korean War and for "hostile acts" against the state during a recent trip.
North Korean authorities released video showing Newman reading his alleged apology. It was dated Nov. 9 and couldn't be independently confirmed, the Associated Press reported.
Newman was taken off a plane Oct. 26 by North Korean authorities while preparing to leave after a 10-day visit. Newman's son has said his father wanted to return to the country, where he spent three years during the war.
AP reported North Korea has been accused of previously coercing statements from detainees.
In addition, Newman's alleged statement was riddled with stilted English and grammatical errors, such as "I want not punish me."
"I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people," Newman purportedly wrote in a four-page statement, adding: "Please forgive me."
Contributing: The Associated Press