Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Monday he will take up the issue of a reunion between Hitomi Soga and her American husband, who lives in North Korea, when he meets with U.S. President George W. Bush this week.
Charles Robert Jenkins, a former U.S. Army sergeant listed as a deserter, has refused to travel to Japan with his two daughters because he fears being handed over to the United States for a court-martial. Soga was kidnapped by North Korea in 1978. She was allowed to return to Japan in 2002.
Koizumi and Bush are scheduled to meet Tuesday on the sidelines of a three-day Group of Eight summit on Sea Island, Ga.
“I intend to touch on” the issue, Koizumi told reporters at the headquarters of his Liberal Democratic Party. He did not elaborate, saying, “I cannot go into details, as the matter is in a delicate stage.”
Koizumi on May 22 made his second visit to Pyongyang and brought with him five children of four repatriated abductees who, like Soga, returned to Japan in 2002 following the prime minister’s first trip to the reclusive state.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reportedly told Koizumi that all the families of repatriated Japanese abductees are free to leave the country. But Jenkins refused to come to Japan unless the United States guarantees that he would not be arrested, Japanese officials said.
Japan has urged the United States to consider pardoning Jenkins or giving him special consideration so that he can travel to Japan and live with his wife.
But the U.S. government has not shown any sign of a compromise.
Immediately after the Koizumi-Kim summit, the U.S. Defense Department issued a statement that Jenkins “remains subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and has been charged with extremely serious offenses.”
Koizumi denied media reports that he would visit Iraq to meet Japanese troops after attending the G8 summit.
“I am not planning anything like that at all,” he said.
The popular weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun and the Nikkan Gendai tabloid reported last week that Koizumi was planning to make a surprise visit to the Japanese camp in the southern Iraq city of Samawah.
The reports said his envisioned trip would be another “diplomatic performance” to boost his popularity ahead of the Upper House election in July, following his second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang last month.