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North Korea has detained at least six Americans since 2009, including two journalists accused of trespassing and others, some of whom are of Korean ancestry, accused of spreading Christianity. Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary and tour operator, has been detained for more than a year. North Korea sees missionary work as a Western threat to its authoritarian government.

In Washington, Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the U.S. remains “deeply concerned about the welfare” of Mr. Bae and Mr. Newman and urged North Korea to release both men immediately.

“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,” Ms. Hayden said.

In a statement Saturday, Mr. Bae’s family said it was thankful of the U.S. call for the release of both men.

“Now we’re including Mr. Newman in our prayers,” Mr. Bae’s family said.

Whatever the reasons behind the detention, it could hurt impoverished North Korea’s efforts to encourage a growing tourism trade, which is seen as a rare source of much-needed foreign currency.

Tourism is picking up in North Korea, despite strong warnings from the State Department, most recently this week. Americans travel there each year, many as part of humanitarian efforts or to find long-lost relatives or to see a closed society few outsiders get to visit.

• Associated Press writers Foster Klug and Eun-Young Jeong in Seoul and Eric Talmadge in Tokyo contributed to this report.