An 85-year-old U.S. tourist and war veteran has been deported by North Korea more than a month after being detained for alleged hostile acts, and was in China Saturday.

Merrill Newman told reporters as he stopped in Beijing that he was happy to be returning home to Palo Alto, Calif., after being pulled from a plane leaving Pyongyang by North Korean forces.

“I’m very glad to be on my way home,” Newman said. “I appreciate the tolerance the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) government has given to me to be on my way. I feel good. I feel good. I want to go home to see my wife.”

Newman appeared healthy in photos taken of him at the Beijing airport and walked off with two men believed to be U.S. diplomats, Reuters is reporting.

The State Department released a statement expressing approval with the move by North Korea.

“We welcome the decision to release him,” read the statement from Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman.

North Korean state media says officials decided to release the veteran and tourist because he apologized for his alleged war crimes, and because of his age and medical condition.

It’s not clear if Newman’s confession was coerced. He was taken off a plane Oct. 26 by North Korean authorities while preparing to leave the country after a 10-day tour.

Vice President Joe Biden praised North Korea for releasing Newman.

“The DPRK today released someone they never should have had in the first place, Mr. Newman,” Biden said.

The vice president addressed reporters during his visit to South Korea.

“I offered him a ride home on Air Force Two,” Biden said of a telephone call with the former detainee… see more

source: usatoday