US delays seeking charges for ex-soldier
The United States maintains its right to try an ex-U.S. soldier accused of deserting to North Korea, but may delay doing so out of respect for his health, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker said Saturday.
Charles Robert Jenkins, 64, a former U.S. army sergeant who Washington says deserted to North Korea in 1965, is expected to arrive in Japan on Sunday with his Japanese wife and the couple's two North Korean-born daughters for medical treatment despite questions about his fate.
He added that there are no plans for US officials to see Jenkins in Japan, who will be taken to hospital upon arriving in Tokyo, at any time in "the immediate future." But Baker reiterated Washington's view that Jenkins, a native of North Carolina, had deserted.
"The U.S. government has the right to request custody...and will do so at the appropriate time," he said.
Tokyo has asked for special treatment for him, worried that he would be handed over to U.S. authorities for court martial if he came to Japan.
A nurse when she was kidnapped with her mother by North Korean agents as they returned from buying groceries one day in August 1978, Soga was gagged, flung in a sack and put on a boat bound for North Korea.
Her mother, Miyoshi, has not been heard from since.
The tale of all five abductees has fascinated Japan, but Soga's story, along with her penchant for expressing her feelings in poetry, have made her a special favorite.
"Everything, from people's hearts, the mountains, rivers and valleys, looks beautiful," she wrote after coming home. "The skies, the earth and trees are singing 'welcome back' for me."
"Clear-blue autumn skies. Going through the skies would take me back to my beloved family. If I had wings or if I were a bird, I could fly and bring them right back with me," she wrote, months ago.
Her reunion with Jenkins in Jakarta last Friday, especially the tight embrace and long kiss with which she greeted him at the stairs of a chartered plane, was front page news.