Merrill Newman, 85, ID’ed as American Held in North Korea: Report

November 20, 2013 11:57 am Last Updated: July 18, 2015 5:18 pm

Merrill Newman, an elderly American man, has been detained in North Korea for more than three weeks, according to a report.

Newman, 85, is originally from Palo Alto, California. He and a neighbor apparently visited North Korea in October, using a tour company based in Beijing.

Sources told the San Jose Mercury News that North Korean officials removed Newman as he was leaving the country on Oct. 26.

The U.S. State Department and the North Korean regime has not made a formal announcement about the matter.

Elaborating further, The Guardian reported that Newman entered the isolated, communist country last month on visa.

“We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea,” a State Department official told the paper “There is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad.” But it added that the agency has “no additional information to share at this time.”

On Tuesday, the State Department released an updated travel advisory for Americans traveling in North Korea. “US citizens crossing into North Korea, even accidentally, have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention,” it reads.

North Korea and the U.S. have no official diplomatic relations.

As the Guardian notes, Merrill could be used as a bargaining chip in future negotiations between the U.S. and Pyongyang.

The country has held Kenneth Bae, who is a Korean-American Christian missionary, since 2012.