By Megan R. Wilson - 11/30/13 01:27 PM EST
The White House is urging North Korea to free an 85-year-old American tourist who's been detained for more than a month.
Due to Merrill Newman's "advanced age and health conditions … we urge the DPRK to release Mr. Newman so he may return home and reunite with his family," said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, according to the Associated Press.
“If I go back to U.S.A., I will tell the true features of the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] DPRK and the life the Korean people are leading,” the written apology, dated Nov. 9, read.
Newman was plucked from a plane set to travel from North Korea to Bejing on Oct. 26, according to reports.
During the final days of his trip, Newman asked to speak with one of his tour guides and another North Korean, later telling his companion that the talk did not go well.
The state-run North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Newman “is a criminal as he masterminded espionage and subversive activities against the DPRK and in this course he was involved in killings of service personnel of the Korean People's Army and innocent civilians.”
In a report separate from the confession, KCNA said he worked as an “adviser” to anti-communist partisans during the Korean War. These advisers, Reuters reported, trained Korean anti-communist guerilla fighters to set off attacks behind enemy lines – including disrupting munitions supplies, transport lines and communications.
"In the process of following tasks given by me, I believe they would kill more innocent people," Newman’s statement continues.
Much of his confession released by the North Korean state-run media is in broken English: "I realize that I cannot be forgiven for my offensives (offenses) but I beg for pardon on my knees by apologizing for my offensives (offenses) sincerely toward the DPRK government and the Korean people and I want not punish me (I wish not to be punished)."
Secretary of State John Kerry has called the arrest one of several “very, very disturbing choices by the North Koreans” in the past weeks and months.
The country has been holding another American citizen, Kenneth Bae, since last year for “hostile acts” against North Korea and attempting to topple the government. He was found guilty and is sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, according to reports.
“I think this is obviously one of those moments when North Korea needs to figure out where it's heading and recognize that the United States of America is not engaging in belligerent, threatening behavior,” Kerry told reporters on Capitol Hill last week.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), a Korean War veteran, called for Newman's release Wednesday in a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. "It is my understanding that Mr. Newman has a heart condition which requires medication. I hope you would have the heart to reunite him with his loved ones and those who can provide proper care," Rangel wrote.
This post was updated at 5:55 p.m.