Soga asks Baker to help secure reunion

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Hitomi Soga, one of five surviving abductees repatriated in October from North Korea, met Friday with U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker and asked for Washington’s help in reuniting them with their families.

“I would like the United States to help” resolve the abduction issue, including by trying to persuade Pyongyang to allow the returnees’ families to come to Japan and securing the return of other Japanese whose whereabouts are unknown, a Japanese government official quoted Soga, 43, as saying during the meeting.

“It is very painful that my family and I are separated,” said Soga, who has a 63-year-old American husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, and two daughters in North Korea. Jenkins, an alleged U.S. Army deserter, reportedly entered North Korea in 1965 while stationed near the demilitarized in South Korea.

The official said Baker responded by saying the U.S. government is dealing with the issue at the top level, and that it will be discussed during a May 23 summit between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President George W. Bush.

On Jenkins, Baker was quoted as saying: “I cannot say what would become of him in the future, but I am aware of his difficult position.”

If Jenkins is allowed to come to Japan, he could be arrested by U.S. authorities. But Baker did not make any commitment on the issue, the official said, adding that the ambassador promised to inform Soga if there is any progress on the abduction issue.

During her visit to Tokyo, Soga and the four other former abductees took part in a rally and met with top government officials, including Koizumi. The other returnees also have children in North Korea.