TODAY   |  December 07, 2013

Released U.S. vet offered ride home on Air Force Two

“I’m very glad to be on my way home,” said Merrill Newman, who was released from North Korea after being detained for more than a month. NBC’s Ian Williams reports.

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>>> today's top story. the american veteran merrill newman will be home are his family in california in a matter of house. he has been held prison in north korea for weeks. late last night he was relieved and quickly began that trip home. ian williams is tracking the developments for us this morning from beijing. ian, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, erica. merrill newman is now a free man after north korea deported him on the first available fleight out of pyongyang.

>> i'm very glad to be on my way home. i appreciate the tolerance the dprk government has gave me to be on my way.

>> reporter: he also said that he was particularly grateful to the north koreans for releasing him and he was looking forward to seeing his wife. the north koreans said they leaved him because of his age and also because of his ill health. he has a heart condition. they also said they were responding to his apology, his so-called apology. now, this was something that he did live on television a week or so ago. he wrote -- he read from a written confession. now, this appeared to be something that might have been written for him or it could well have been something which he was coerced into doing. it wasn't clear. in fact, he didn't respond to that this morning when he arrived at beijing airport . he was led out of the airport in the company of u.s. diplomats from the embassy. they did say that joe biden had offered to give him a lift out on air force two. in the end, he decided to at that time direct route on a commercial flight and he would arrive in san francisco to be united with his family in just a few hours from now, erica.

>> i'm sure they are looking forward to having him back with them. ian williams for us this morning in beijing, thank you.