North Korea accused a captive American military veteran of war crimes, saying he was involved in the killing of innocent civilians during the Korean War, state news media reported on Saturday.
The veteran, Merrill E. Newman, 85, of Palo Alto, Calif., has been detained in North Korea since Oct. 26, when he was taken off a flight as he was about to leave the country. He had been visiting on a tourist visa.
The Korean Central News Agency said on Saturday that Mr. Newman had “admitted his crimes” and apologized for his actions during the war, which lasted from 1950 until 1953.
Mr. Newman, who is a retired technology executive, served as an infantryman during the war and had long wanted to revisit the country.
Mr. Newman’s son, Jeff Newman, had said that the day before his father was to leave North Korea, he had a meeting with his tour guide during which the Korean War was discussed.
The news agency said Mr. Newman had “masterminded espionage and subversive activities against the D.P.R.K., and in this course he was involved in killings of service personnel of the Korean People’s Army and innocent civilians.” The D.P.R.K. stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
KCNA also published what it said was Mr. Newman’s apology, a statement in often stilted English that described actions during the war. It also released a video in which Mr. Newman was seen reading excerpts from the statement.
‘‘During the Korean War, I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people as advisor of the Kuwol Unit of the U.N. Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command,’’ it said.
Relatives had appealed to the North Korean government to release Mr. Newman, with Jeff Newman calling the situation a “misunderstanding.” He said his father has a heart condition and a bad back and was on several medications.
Mr. Newman’s relatives were not immediately available to comment on his arrest.
The detention of Mr. Newman led the United States to issue a travel warning about visiting North Korea, saying, “U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea, even accidentally, have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention.”
North Korea continues to hold Kenneth Bae, 44, a Christian missionary who was sentenced in May to 15 years of hard labor for committing “hostile acts” against the North. Mr. Bae’s mother was recently allowed to visit him in a hospital, where he was being treated after becoming ill after working at a labor camp.
Mr. Newman was detained at the end of a nine-day trip he made to North Korea with a companion from his California retirement village. The friend, Bob Hamrdla, said Mr. Newman’s talk with the tour guide the day before his planned departure had not gone well and had left him upset.
His flight was about to take off from Pyongyang to Beijing when he was pulled off the plane.
The State Department had no immediate comment on the North Korean report !