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(Reuters) - North Korea appears to have detained an 85-year-old California man who had entered the country on a tourist visa, pulling him off a plane as he was about to leave the reclusive Asian country last month, according to media reports on Wednesday.
Japan's Kyodo News Service, citing an unnamed diplomatic source in a report from Beijing, said the man entered North Korea for sightseeing last month with a valid visa and may have been detained. The report did not identify him. But neighbors of 85-year-old Merrill Newman in the Northern California city of Palo Alto told Reuters on Wednesday they were concerned about his fate after he travelled to North Korea but failed to return.
The San Jose Mercury News, citing unnamed sources, had earlier identified Newman as the detained American, saying he was a Korean war veteran who was taken off a plane as he was about to leave North Korea on October 26. The detention could become another diplomatic bargaining chip for North Korea, which has held Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary, since November 2012, Kyodo said. Bae has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.