- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

Deserter in N. Korea

Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato says his government is concerned about the future of a suspected American defector to North Korea, who married a Japanese woman after she was kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s.

“The current situation does not allow me to tell how the issue will develop,” Mr. Kato told Japan’s Kyodo news service this week.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is expected to discuss the status of Army Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins and relatives of other Japanese citizens still in North Korea, when he meets North Korean leader Kim Jong-il tomorrow in Pyongyang, the capital of the isolated communist nation.

North Korea released Sgt. Jenkins’ wife, Hitomi Soga, and four other kidnapped Japanese citizens two years ago. She hopes Mr. Koizumi will be able to arrange a reunion with her husband. Their two North Korean-born daughters remain with Sgt. Jenkins.

U.S. authorities accuse him of deserting while on patrol along the Korean demilitarized zone in 1965 and defecting to North Korea, where he appeared in an anti-American propaganda film in 1980.

They plan to seek his extradition, if he travels to Japan. Mr. Koizumi’s government has urged the Bush administration to pardon Sgt. Jenkins.

In Tokyo, U.S. Ambassador Howard H. Baker Jr. yesterday expressed his personal sympathy for the family but reiterated U.S. policy.

“The position of the United States government is that Jenkins is a deserter, and the fact that it’s been a long time ago does not change the fact that he is still classified as a deserter,” Mr. Baker told reporters.

“If he is returned to the United States or the custody of the United States, he will be dealt with according to the provisions of our military justice.

“I don’t know what will happen, but I have sympathy for Mrs. Soga, for her family and for her daughters.”

Olympic security

Greece is “doing everything humanly possible” to prevent terrorist attacks at the Olympics Games in Athens, Greece’s prime minister said yesterday as he met with President Bush.

“We are doing everything humanly possible in terms of energy, resources [and] professionals to secure a really successful games, and I am confident that we’ll succeed with that,” said Konstandinos Karamanlis.

Mr. Bush acknowledged the close U.S.-Greek cooperation in guaranteeing “that people are able to travel to your beautiful country in as secure an environment as possible.”

Mr. Bush said he is “excited” about the games, but, unfortunately he will not be able to attend the Aug. 13-29 competition. The Republican convention in New York begins Aug. 30.

“I wish I could attend, but this is the political season,” he said. “So, instead, I’m sending my father to lead our delegation.”

Returning to Taiwan

Taiwan’s deputy representative in the United States managed to visit 60 cities throughout the nation and build contacts on Capitol Hill and the Taiwanese-American community, during his two-year tour of duty here.

Michael Tsai returned to Taiwan this week to assume his new position as vice minister of defense to help modernize his country’s military.

As the No. 2 official at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, he said he was “blessed to have the opportunity to visit over 60 cities and nearly every state in the union.”

“Along the way, I met many new friends and acquaintances in all three branches of the U.S. government, in dozens of think tanks, the media and the expatriate Chinese/Taiwanese community,” he said in a farewell letter.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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