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Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Wednesday that Japan plans to continue consultations with the United States about a U.S. deserter married to a Japanese national abducted by North Korea, following the U.S. defense chief’s remarks on the issue.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated at a press conference in Washington on Tuesday that former U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins, who deserted to North Korea in 1965 while stationed on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone, would face a court-martial if he visits his wife, Hitomi Soga, in Japan. Soga is one of five surviving abductees whom North Korea has allowed to visit.

Later in the day, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe explained the state of the Japanese-U.S. discussion on Jenkins’ fate in a meeting with Soga in Tokyo.

Soga is visiting Tokyo from her hometown in Niigta Prefecture to meet government officials and discuss the fate of her family, which is still in the North.

“We explained to Ms. Soga that we have conveyed to the U.S. side our position and her position (to allow Jenkins to come to Japan without facing court-martial),” Abe told reporters after the meeting. “Soga replied that she will leave the matter to the government.”

Regarding the stalled Tokyo-Pyongyang normalization talks, Abe said he told Soga that it is becoming difficult to hold the next round of negotiations by the end of the month.

Abe also explained the specifics of new legislation now being deliberated by the Diet to help surviving victims of the abductions with financial aid, education, accommodations and job opportunities, he said.

Expressing gratitude, Soga said she “decided to visit Tokyo to do something that might improve the situation, rather than sitting back in her hometown,” Abe quoted Soga as saying.

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