Cambodia volunteers to host reunion of Soga, kin

Kyodo

Cambodia said Tuesday it would be willing to host a planned reunion between repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga and her family members who are still in North Korea.

Om Yin Tieng, senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said Cambodia can be a candidate site.

According to some news reports, Vietnam and Indonesia are possible reunion venues in Asia, aside from China.

In Tokyo, the government confirmed at a meeting of senior officials Tuesday that it will respect the wishes of Soga, who has said she wants to see her family in a place other than Beijing, a site initially suggested by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Soga said Beijing is too close to North Korea.

Om Yin Tieng said Cambodia would assist on a humanitarian basis if Japan makes an official request for help.

Cambodia has no extradition treaty with the United States, meaning it would have no legal obligation to hand over Soga’s American husband, whom the U.S. might want to court-martial for desertion.

Soga returned to Japan in 2002, 24 years after she was abducted to North Korea, leaving behind her husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, and their two daughters.

Japan has been trying to reunite them in a third country since Jenkins, an alleged U.S. Army deserter, declined to travel to Japan when he met with Koizumi on May 22 in Pyongyang, fearing he could be handed over to the United States. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Tuesday that the reunion may take some time.

“We need to fulfill various conditions. It could take time in the course of narrowing them down,” she said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda agreed, saying Tokyo must let Pyongyang know that Soga does not want to meet in Beijing.