SAN FRANCISCO — An 85-year-old U.S. veteran of the Korean War who was detained for several weeks in North Korea arrived home Saturday in California.
Merrill Newman landed in San Francisco on a flight from Beijing.
Newman was detained in late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war.
Last month, Newman read from an awkwardly worded alleged confession that apologized for, among other things, killing North Koreans during the war. Analysts questioned whether the statement was coerced, and former South Korean guerrillas who had worked with Newman and fought behind enemy lines during the war disputed some of the details.
North Korea cited Newman's age and medical condition in allowing him to leave the country.
Earlier Saturday, a smiling Newman told reporters in Beijing that he felt good and was glad to be on his way home.
"And I appreciate the tolerance the (North Korean) government has given to me to be on my way," he said after arriving at the airport in Beijing from Pyongyang, adding that he looked forward to seeing his wife.
Newman's detention highlighted the extreme sensitivity with which Pyongyang views the war, which ended without a formal peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war. The conflict is a regular focus of North Korean propaganda and media, which accuse Pyongyang's wartime enemies Washington and Seoul of carrying on the fighting by continuing to push for the North's overthrow.