- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 30, 2002

From combined dispatches
TOKYO Japan is demanding that a purported U.S. Army deserter living in North Korea be allowed to visit to receive medical treatment, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday.
North Korea told Japan through its embassy in Beijing late Thursday that Charles Robert Jenkins was hospitalized Tuesday, although details of his sickness were not disclosed, the spokesman said on the condition of anonymity.
North Korea has not yet replied to the invitation.
Mr. Jenkins, 62 and formerly of Rich Square, N.C., is married to Hitomi Soga, 43, a Japanese who was abducted by North Korean agents from a Japanese seaside town in the 1970s. The couple has two teenage daughters, who were included in Japan's invitation.
Mr. Jenkins is accused of defecting to communist North Korea after leaving his U.S. Army post along the South Korean border in 1965. Tokyo has asked Washington to pardon Mr. Jenkins, but the United States has not yet responded.
It was not clear whether Mr. Jenkins wanted to come to Japan. In a recent interview with a Japanese newsmagazine, he expressed concern that he might be extradited to the United States if he left North Korea.
Mr. Jenkins said he taught English in North Korea from 1972 to 1980 and occasionally played minor parts in movies. The Jenkins' daughters attend a university in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
Mrs. Soga returned from North Korea to Japan in October with four other Japanese kidnapping victims. The homecoming occurred one month after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il reversed years of denials and admitted that his nation had kidnapped 13 Japanese since the 1970s so spies could assume the victims' identities and learn the Japanese language and customs. Pyongyang said eight of the kidnap victims were dead.
The Foreign Ministry said Mr. Jenkins asked that news of his hospitalization be relayed to his wife.
"Of course I'm worried about my husband," Mrs. Soga said yesterday. "I was given very little information and I'm worried. But I have left everything up to the Japanese government."
Mrs. Soga is visiting Tokyo this week from her hometown in northern Japan to press the government to help her husband receive immunity from U.S. prosecution.
She said she likes living in Japan again but cannot decide whether to make it her permanent home until she talks with her husband and daughters.
"What's most important to me is that the family stays together," she said.
Mr. Jenkins' relatives in the United States have questioned charges that he deserted the Army and asked U.S. officials to look into the possibility that he may have been abducted.
His nephew, James Hyman, was quoted by Japan's Yomiuri newspaper as saying that there were unnatural circumstances surrounding his uncle's disappearance and that he had petitioned President Bush for an investigation.
A top Japanese official said Wednesday that talks with Washington were in a "delicate" stage but gave no details.
Diplomatic sources say that although some in Washington favor granting Mr. Jenkins amnesty, others are opposed, given that he may have collaborated with North Korea, which Mr. Bush has dubbed part of an "axis of evil" with Iraq and Iran.


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