LOS ANGELES, Dec 9 (Reuters) - An elderly U.S. Korean War veteran released from detention in North Korea said on Monday that his videotaped "confession" was given under duress, adding that he believed he may have been held in a misunderstanding over his interest in the war.
Merrill Newman, 85, said in a written statement he was kept under guard in a North Korean hotel and that his interrogator told him he would be sentenced to jail for 15 years if he did not cooperate.
"Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me 'confess' to," Newman said in the statement issued two days after he arrived at San Francisco airport on Saturday following his release from detention.
The Korean War veteran added that during the tourist trip that led to his detention, he had expressed interest in visiting some of those "who fought in the war" in the Mount Kuwol area and that the North Koreans "seem to have misinterpreted my curiosity as something more sinister."
"It is now clear to me the North Koreans still feel much more anger about the war than I realized," said Newman, a resident of Palo Alto, California. "With the benefit of hindsight, I should have been more sensitive to that."
On Oct. 26, he was pulled off an Air Koryo flight about to leave the country at the conclusion of his tourist visit.
Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American who worked as a Christian missionary, remains imprisoned in North Korea after he was convicted in May of crimes against the state and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. (Reporting by Dana Feldman, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Philip Barbara)