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U.S. citizen American Merill E. Newman, who was arrested in North Korea last October, was shown on state TV reading an apology.
Pyongyang says he is accused of committing "hostile acts" against the state.
State media said the 85-year-old from California was suspected of being involved in the killing of civilians during the Korean War.
In the video shown on Korean Central News Agency, Newman read a handwritten statement, admitting to crimes.
Reuters cannot independently verify the video.
Newman was visiting North Korea as a tourist, and he was not allowed to leave on his return flight.
North Korea has detained Americans in the past, and the U.S. State Department has repeatedly warned against traveling to the country.