• Kyodo

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Hitomi Soga, one of the five known surviving Japanese abductees now back in Japan from North Korea, wants to visit the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to ask the United States not to arrest her American husband as a deserter if he comes to Japan, sources in her hometown said Tuesday.

Soga, 43, on Monday visited the town hall of Mano on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture and told officials she wants to directly make the request on behalf of her husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, a former U.S. Army sergeant listed by the U.S. military as having deserted to North Korea in 1965, the sources said.

Officials of the town plan to convey Soga’s intention to the U.S. Embassy shortly, according to the sources.

U.S. officials have said Jenkins, 62, would be arrested and charged with desertion if he comes to Japan.

Soga arrived in Japan on Oct. 15 along with four other Japanese abductees, two married couples, whom North Korea allowed to come home, on condition that their stay was brief. The five were abducted by Pyongyang agents in 1978.

The Japanese government is urging the U.S. to give special consideration to Jenkins’ case but has yet to receive a reply.

Jenkins is said to have entered North Korea while stationed near the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea. He and Soga married in North Korea in 1980 and have two daughters, aged 19 and 17.

Despite strong requests from Tokyo, Pyongyang has refused to allow Jenkins, the couple’s daughters and the offspring of the four other returnees, to leave the country.

Japanese in Pyongyang

Japan asked North Korea last month to provide information on the well-being of thousands of Japanese nationals who accompanied their North Korean spouses or family members to the country when they were repatriated after the end of World War II, a senior Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday.

Under a program that was devised by late North Korean President Kim Il Sung and endorsed by the Japanese government in February 1959, 93,340 pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan, including married couples and children, were sent to North Korea between 1959 and 1984.

Among them were 6,800 Japanese nationals — the wives, husbands and children of Koreans going back to the country. Of the Japanese in question, 1,800 were women married to Koreans, according to media reports.

Japan issued this request during late October normalization talks in Kuala Lumpur, Hitoshi Tanaka, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told a Diet committee.

Japan also requested that the relatives of these people living in Japan be allowed to visit North Korea to meet their families. North Korea did not provide a specific response to either of these requests, Tanaka said.

“We would like to make considerations so that we will be able to confirm the safety of many people as soon as possible,” remarked Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi.

The Red Cross Societies of both nations agreed in August that homecoming visits by Japanese spouses should be resumed in late October, although this initiative has now been postponed.

“Work is currently being conducted between the Red Cross societies of Japan and North Korea,” Tanaka said.

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