Is American man said detained in North Korea a bargaining chip?

SEOUL -- It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime for Merrill Newman, a Korean War veteran who had long wanted to go to North Korea.

It ended, according to his family, with the detention of Newman, 85, when he was pulled off a plane at Pyongyang's Sunan International Airport five minutes before it was to depart.

Newman, of Palo Alto, California, has not been seen nor heard from since October 26, the day he and a traveling companion wrapped up a 10-day organized tour of North Korea, his son, Jeff Newman, told CNN.

The U.S. State Department declined Thursday to confirm Newman's identity or whether he had been detained, citing privacy issues. North Korea has not publicly acknowledged that it is holding Newman.

Newman's son believes the detention is the result of "a misunderstanding."

"My father is a (Korean War) veteran and wanted to see the country and culture he has been interested in for years," he said. "He arranged this with a travel agent that was recommended and said was approved by the North Korean government for travel of foreigners. He had all the proper visas."

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