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June 24, 2017

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US Korean War veteran detained in NK: son

PALO ALTO, California -- North Korea has detained an 85-year-old Korean War veteran from California visiting the country as a tourist, pulling him off a plane as he was about to leave the reclusive nation last month, his son said.

Merrill Newman, a retiree from Palo Alto, California, was taken away a day after he and his tour guide spoke with North Korean authorities at a meeting in which his military service in Korea was discussed, his son, Jeff Newman, said in a CNN interview on Wednesday.

The U.S. government has not directly confirmed the detention, citing privacy laws.

Glyn Davies, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, said: "We are calling on North Korea, as in the Kenneth Bae case, to resolve this issue and let our citizens go free."

Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary, has been held in North Korea since November 2012 and has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

Asked by reporters in Beijing if Newman was being held in North Korea, Davies said: "I cannot comment in any specificity about that because we do not have a privacy act waiver so by law we are constrained."

But he added: "We certainly think that North Korea should think long and hard about these cases and understand that for the United States, these are matters of core concern to us."

Jeff Newman, who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena, said his account of his father's disappearance and the meeting that preceded it was based on details relayed to him through another American traveling with his father at the time.

"I understand that my dad was a bit bothered but really didn't go into any detail (about the meeting) with his traveling companion," the son said in the telephone interview.

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