Repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga may have to wait several weeks to be reunited with her husband because the government needs to pick the right location for the couple to discuss their future in a “quiet environment,” a top Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.
It has been reported that the government is trying to arrange a reunion between Soga and her family, now in North Korea, as early as this weekend.
The official’s remark, however, suggests that the process could take more time than was anticipated.
“It would not be this weekend or the next” before the government can pick a location, the official said, adding that Soga would be sounded out before a final decision is made.
Of the five abductees who returned to Japan in 2002 after being abducted to North Korea in the 1970s, Soga alone was unable to reunite with her family members after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s trip to North Korea on Saturday.
Her husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, an alleged U.S. Army deserter, refused to come to Japan, fearing he would be handed over to the U.S. to be court-martialed.
Instead, Japan is seeking to arrange a meeting between Soga, Jenkins and their two North Korean-born daughters in a third country.
Media reports have mentioned China, Switzerland, Indonesia and Russia’s Far Eastern region as possible sites for the meeting.
The government is currently compiling a list of countries with which the United States has concluded extradition treaties, status of forces agreements and criminal investigation cooperation treaties.
Tokyo is trying to avoid these countries in order to avoid a situation in which Jenkins is handed over to Washington.
About 100 countries around the world have concluded extradition treaties with the U.S., the official said. Switzerland has a treaty of this kind.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a news conference earlier in the day that the government is also considering the convenience of transportation and whether the nation in question has diplomatic ties with the North.
“We would sound out Soga on the location, date, and how long (she wants to meet with her family),” Hosoda said. “Then we would convey the message to Jenkins via the North Korean government and wait for a response.”
In a lecture the same day, Cabinet Secretariat adviser Kyoko Nakayama said that Soga has told the government that she wants to avoid a reunion in Beijing because it is too close to North Korea.
Soga added that she hopes to meet at a place where English is a common language, Nakayama said.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.