Merrill Newman, the 85-year-old United States tourist who was detained in North Korea for longer than a month for allegedly committing hostile acts, has returned to his home in San Francisco after getting on a flight from Beijing, according to a Fox News report on Saturday.
Newman, a war veteran, was reportedly released because he apologized for his alleged crimes during the Korean War and because of his age and medical conditions.
After being joined by family at the San Francisco International Airport, he said he was happy to be home but quite tired. He only spoke to the media briefly at the airport.
Earlier reports on Saturday morning indicated that Newman was met by United States embassy staff members in Beijing where he was to take a United Airlines flight which was to arrive in San Francisco at 11:59 a.m.
During Merrill’s ordeal, his detention severely increased diplomatic tensions between North Korea and the United States – especially when a video of Newman was released in which he read a confession to war crimes. It is unknown if his confession was coerced by the North Korean authorities.
He was removed from a plane on Oct.26 by North Korean authorities when he was preparing to leave the country following a 10-day tour.
Vice President Joe Biden is in South Korea at this time and praised North Korea for releasing Newman. Biden admits he had no direct role in securing Newman’s release. Biden offered Newman a ride on Air Force Two, but the veteran said he preferred to get home as quickly as possible – to his residence in Palo Alto, California.