North Korea today freed an 85-year-old US veteran of the Korean War after a weekslong detention, ending the saga of Merrill Newman's attempt to visit the North as a tourist six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas still loathed by Pyongyang. North Korea made the decision after Newman, who was detained since late October, apologized for his alleged crimes, which Pyongyang linked in part to his work with the South Korean partisan group. North Korea also cited his age and medical condition.
"I am very glad to be on my way home," a smiling Newman told reporters after arriving at the airport in Beijing from Pyongyang. "And I appreciate the tolerance the [North Korean] government has given to me to be on my way." Newman also said he felt "good" and added with a laugh that the first thing he planned to do was "go home and see my wife." Vice President Joe Biden, who is traveling in Seoul, welcomed the release and said he talked by phone with Newman in Beijing, offering him a ride home on Air Force Two. Biden said Newman declined because of a direct flight to his home state of California later today. Click for more details. (Read more Merrill Newman stories.)