Washington: North Korea on Saturday released a US veteran of the Korean War who had been detained in the country since October for what the Communist regime described as "hostile acts" against it.
North Korea`s state-run news agency KCNA said that Merrill Newman was expelled on "humanitarian grounds" after confessing to "crimes" in the 1950-53 war and "apologising".
Newman, an 85-year-old from California, is currently in Beijing and would fly to San Francisco soon.
"I`m very glad to be on my way home," Newman told Japanese media at Beijing airport. "I feel good, I feel good. I want to go home to see my wife."
His release was welcomed by the US.
"The DPRK (Democratic People`s Republic of Korea) today released someone they never should have had in the first place, Newman," US Vice President Joe Biden said in Seoul.
Biden in fact offered him a ride over his plane, but the released American national opted for a direct flight between Beijing and California.
"Newman has been allowed to depart the DPRK and re-join his family. We welcome the DPRK`s decision to release him," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said.
"It`s a positive thing they`ve done, but they still have Mr. (Kenneth) Bae, who has no reason being held in the North (Korea), should be released immediately. We`re going to demand his release as well. At least there`s one bright piece of sunshine that he will be released and return to his family," Biden said.
Biden, who spoke with Newman over phone, said that he did not play any direct role in his release. "I played no direct role," he said.
"We call on the DPRK once again to pardon and grant Bae special amnesty and immediately release him as a humanitarian gesture so that he too can return home to his family.?The US Government will continue to work actively on his case," Harf said.