Swedish diplomats visit U.S. citizen detained in North Korea

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Swedish diplomats in Pyongyang visited 85-year-old U.S. Korean War veteran Merrill Newman in custody on Saturday, the State Department said, the first access to him by Western officials since his arrest in late October.

"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.

The State Department official said the United States was aware of news reports that Newman had apologized for his wartime activities but had no other information about reasons for his detention.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by David Brunnstrom)