WASHINGTON - The State Department said Friday that North Korea acknowledges it is holding an American citizen but hasn't granted diplomats consular access so the person's identity is not yet confirmed.
Expectation is that it will be Merrill Newman of California. The 85-year old Korean War veteran's family says he was detained at the end of a tourist trip to North Korea last month.
Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that Sweden has been informed by Pyongyang that it is detaining an American citizen. Because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, Sweden oversees consular issues for the United States there.
Psaki says the Swedish Embassy is requesting access daily to the American.
"We are working in close coordination with representatives of the embassy of Sweden to resolve this issue. They have requested, actually on a daily basis, consular access," Psaki said. "They haven't been granted that access."
Newman's wife has implored authorities there to let her husband return to his anxious, concerned family.
Lee Newman said in a statement released Friday from the Channing House retirement community that the family feels a misunderstanding led to his detention.
Her husband, Merrill Newman, was set to end a 10 day tour of North Korea on Oct. 26.
She says that just before he was slated to fly out, he was escorted from his flight by a North Korean official, and the family doesn't know why he is being held.
Newman is the second American to be detained in North Korea. The family of detainee Kenneth Bae has campaigned to have their son released to no avail.