The United States is doing everything it can to secure the release of American Korean War veteran Merrill Newman, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Glyn Davies said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters in Seoul as part of an East Asia focused diplomatic trip, Davies said that the U.S. would “seek to resolve the consular cases that have arisen in North Korea”.
These cases include the month long apprehension of Newman and detention of Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who has been in North Korean custody for over a year.
“We continue to call on the North Koreans to release Mr Bae and also this new individual,” he said.
Despite the call, Davies said he did not wish to discuss the specifics of Newman’s case because “we do not have a privacy act waver for the individual involved so by law I’m enjoined from discussing details of it”.
Newham was arrested in North Korea on October 26, after being removed from a flight leaving Pyongyang. He had travelled to North Korea on a ‘private tour’ with British tour company Juche Travel Services.
According to Newman’s son, the 85 year old had a conversation with his guide that “had not gone well” about the Korean War on the final night of his tour, the New York Times said on Friday.
Newman – who served as an infantryman for three years during the Korean War – had been briefed before travel in Beijing on the etiquette of travel in North Korea, and may have been arrested for expressing his views on the Korean War to a tour guide.
North Korea watcher Leonid Petrov told NK News on Friday that Newman “was probably looking for graves or insisting on some additional places to visit and was not permitted. That could easily have made him upset or say something reckless that might have triggered the arrest”.
Another Korea watcher who wished to remain anonymous said that his minders “would have had to file a report with the Security Bureau. That report would have then been read by the relevant security department the next morning, giving them just enough time to nab the guy before he flew away”.
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