The United States called on North Korea on Saturday to release an elderly U.S. military veteran held in custody since last month and who Pyongyang accused of killing civilians during the Korean War 60 years ago.
Swedish embassy officials were granted access on Saturday to visit Merrill E. Newman, the State Department said, the first access by Western officials to him since his arrest.
Newman, an 85-year old former special forces officer, was detained at the end of a trip to North Korea. Washington and Pyongyang have no diplomatic relations.
"On November 30, the DPRK permitted the Embassy of Sweden, protecting power for issues involving U.S. citizens in North Korea, consular access to U.S. citizen Merrill Newman," a State Department official said in a statement.
"Given Mr. 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," the official added, using the acronym for the North's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The White House also urged Newman's release in a brief statement.
Earlier on Saturday, North Korea showcased Newman as a criminal, showing a video of him making a full confession and apology as if the battles of the Korean War were still raging.
The state KCNA news agency said Newman was a mastermind of clandestine operations and had confessed to being "guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people."
The video can be seen here, though an annoying Reuters reporter talks over most of it.
In the patchy video, Newman appears composed and is shown reading aloud from a handwritten statement dated Nov 9, 2013 in a wood-paneled meeting room. At the end, he bows and places a finger print on the document.
"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)," Newman, who has a heart rhythm disorder, was quoted as saying by KCNA....
KCNA said in a separate report that Newman worked as an "adviser" to a partisan regiment during the Korean War as "part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Command of the U.S. Forces in the Far East."
"He 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," KCNA said.
More from the BBC:
In a video released by North Korean authorities, Mr Newman is shown reading his alleged apology, dated 9 November.
It claims he was an "adviser of the Kuwol Unit of the UN Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command" - an apparent reference to one of the special operations units acting against the North.
Mr Newman apparently confesses to trying to contact surviving soldiers during his trip as a tourist.
The statement adds: "Please forgive me."
But Mr Newman's family has said there must have been "some dreadful misunderstanding" and has appealed for his release, saying he may need medication.
Of course it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that Newman did have regrets about how he behaved 60 years ago. It was, after all, a brutal war. His wife said that her husband went to North Korea to "put some closure" on his time during the U.S. military, as it was "an important part of his life". That does sound like someone who, naively, might want to make some kind of confession to clear his conscience before he died.
On the other hand, he was pulled off the plane as it was about to take off. He clearly wasn't there to hand himself over to North Korean justice. And the North Koreans are the last people who should be given any benefit of the doubt in this kind of situation.
So yes, one way or the other, this smells bad: the intimidation - terrorisation - of a frail and very likely confused old man. We shall have to wait and see how this sordid affair plays out.