White House urges DPRK to release US citizens

Washington, Dec 3: The White House Monday called for the release of US nationals held in North Korea, including an octogenarian detained of late.

“We’re deeply concerned about the welfare of the US citizens held in custody in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” Xinhua quoted spokesman Jay Carney as saying at a regular press briefing.

He cited continuing US appeal for the DPRK to set free Kenneth Bae, a 45-year-old Korean-American man who was detained in the country in November last year and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for “hostile acts” against the country in late April.

“We also urge the immediate release of Merrill Newman, who was detained more recently,” Carney said. “Given Newman’s advanced age and health conditions, we urge the DPRK to release him so he may return home and reunite with his family.”

The DPRK confirmed Saturday that it had arrested Merrill Newman, a US Korean War veteran aged 85, for committing “hostile acts” against the country under the guise of a tourist.

Newman, who entered North Korea as a member of a tourist group Oct 17 had apologised for alleged crimes during the 1950-53 Korean War and “espionage and subversive activities” against the DPRK during his recent trip, according to the country’s official KCNA news agency.

IANS