US signals North Korea can improve ties by freeing Americans

November 22, 2013 03:55

The United States signaled to North Korea on Thursday that it could improve its strained ties with Washington by releasing US citizens, after Pyongyang detained an 85-year-old retiree from California who is an American veteran of the Korean War.

Months of hostile rhetoric early this year pushed tension to some of the highest levels in years with North Korea, which has conducted nuclear tests, threatening a nuclear strike on the United States and South Korea.

North Korea last month detained Merrill Newman, a veteran of the Korean War and a retiree from the upscale Northern California city of Palo Alto, taking him off a plane as he was about to leave the country where he had been visiting on a tourist visa.

The reclusive Asian nation has also held Korean-American Christian missionary Kenneth Bae since November 2012, sentencing him to 15 years of hard labor. His detention followed a long series of acrimonious exchanges between North Korea and the United States over Pyongyang's nuclear program.

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