Soga denies she OK’d Beijing family reunion

Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Reports

Repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga rejected on Monday claims by a government official that she would be happy to accept the government’s proposed list of sites for a reunion with her family, saying she does not want it to take place in Beijing.

Soga’s American husband and two daughters are still in North Korea.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi suggested Beijing as a candidate site during his May 22 visit to Pyongyang.

“There have been news reports that the location of a meeting with the family would be Beijing, but I want to meet them in a place other than Beijing, if possible,” the 45-year-old Soga said in a statement. “I have conveyed my true intention to Cabinet Secretariat adviser Kyoko Nakayama.”

After visiting Soga in Sado, Niigata Prefecture, on Sunday, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiken Sugiura said Soga had indicated that she was comfortable with the government’s list of candidate sites.

Sugiura and Nakayama held talks with Soga for more than an hour Sunday.

Sugiura said afterward that Soga was not against the idea of meeting her family in Beijing. In response to Soga’s statement Monday, Sugiura said the government would ask her again about her intentions.

But Nakayama said Monday that Soga was reluctant during the meeting to accept a reunion in Beijing, apparently due to the close ties between China and North Korea.

Nakayama said earlier that Soga had told her the reunion should take place in a country where English is spoken and that she was “scared” to go to Beijing.

Speaking in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, Sugiura said the government “will not make a decision against her will.”

A senior government official who requested anonymity said later Monday that some officials want the meeting to be in Beijing because that was what Kim Jong Il wanted, and will therefore more likely be approved by Pyongyang.

But the official said Soga appears reluctant to stay in Beijing for an extended period because North Korea’s influence is strong there.

Soga has reportedly said she would like to spend “a few months” with her family if she is allowed to meet them in a third country.

“I think (North Korea) views Jenkins as a diplomatic card,” the official said. “In that case, it would probably want to have (the meeting) held in Beijing.”

Koizumi later told reporters, “I have already instructed staff to proceed (in selecting a site) by taking into account Ms. Soga’s intentions.”

Soga reportedly entrusted the specifics regarding the venue and time frame to the government during a meeting with officials Sunday.

Soga’s husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, 64, is a former U.S. Army sergeant listed as a deserter. He has refused to come to Japan because he fears he could be handed over to the United States for a court-martial.