Rumors are swirling as to the status of an 85-yo Korean War veteran and US citizen, Merrill Newman, after he was reported as detained by North Korea. We'll be watching this story closely here at RallyPoint.com, and we'll keep you posted as significant confirmed updates becomes appropriately made public.
In the meantime, keep Merrill, one of our veteran brothers, in your thoughts and prayers.
-- The RallyPoint Team
SEOUL, South Korea November 21, 2013 (AP)
By FOSTER KLUG and ROBERT JABLON Associated Press
North Korean officials detained an 85-year-old U.S. veteran of the Korean War last month as he sat in a plane set to leave the country, the man’s son said.
A uniformed North Korean officer boarded the plane on Oct. 26 and asked Merrill Newman, a tourist, for his passport before telling a stewardess that Newman had to leave the plane, the son, Jeffrey Newman, said Wednesday.
“My dad got off, walked out with the stewardess, and that’s the last he was seen,” Jeffrey Newman told The Associated Press at his home in California.
It wasn’t clear what led to the detention. The son said he was speaking regularly with the U.S. State Department about his father, but U.S. officials wouldn’t confirm the detention to reporters, citing privacy issues.
North Korea’s official state-run media have yet to comment on reports of the detention, which first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News and Japan’s Kyodo News service.
Secretary of State John Kerry told MSNBC on Thursday in response to a question about Newman that North Korea needed to recognize the “dangerous steps that it’s been taking on many fronts,” including the treatment of its citizens and the start-up of its nuclear reactor.
“We are anxious to proceed to negotiations about denuclearization and to move away from these kinds of provocative actions,” he said.
Kerry stopped short of confirming Newman’s detention and said the country had “other people.”
Newman’s son said that, according to his father’s traveling companion, Newman earlier had a “difficult” discussion with North Korean officials about his experiences during the 1950-53 war between U.S.-led United Nations forces and North Korea and ally China. That war ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically at war.
The war is still an important part of North Korean propaganda, which regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of trying to bring down its political system — statements analysts believe are aimed in part at shoring up domestic support for young leader Kim Jong Un.
Another U.S veteran of the Korean War named Merrill Newman was awarded the Silver Star in 1952 for leading his Marine platoon in a series of attacks that inflicted heavy casualties on North Korean troops and for taking effective defensive actions during a massive counter-attack, according to the Military Times.
Jeffrey Newman told the San Jose Mercury News there is no indication North Korean authorities have confused his father with the other Merrill Newman, who is now 84 and lives in Oregon.
Contacted by the Mercury News, the veteran, Merrill H. Newman, said “it is kind of creepy” knowing someone with the same name was being held captive.
“It’s a darn shame for that guy. I hope they get him out soon,” he told the newspaper, adding he hasn’t traveled to North Korea since the war. “I’ve been there, done that, and I don’t want to go back.”
The detention comes about a year after North Korea detained another American and as the U.S. State Department warns in a formal notice that Americans should avoid travel to the country, in part because of the risk of arbitrary arrest and detention.
Read More at ABC News