National

Soga hopes to live with family in Japan

Jakarta reunion just around the corner but Jenkins factor clouds future

Kyodo

Repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga, set to be reunited Friday in Jakarta with her husband and daughters still in North Korea, said Tuesday she eventually wants them all together in Japan.

“In the very end, I strongly feel that I want the four of us to live together here in Japan,” Soga told a news conference in her hometown on Sado Island, where she has lived since her return in 2002.

She said she is “very happy and relieved” at being able to meet with her family for the first time in 21 months. But she also expressed concern about how their discussions about the future may proceed.

“The almost two-year period was a very long time for me, but the time when my family can get together and hug each other is right around the corner,” Soga said.

“My biggest worry now is no longer about meeting each other, but about what lies ahead,” she said. “I strongly think and hope that we will not end our meeting just by saying it was good to see each other again.”

Soga, 45, was apparently referring to whether her American husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, 64, would agree to go to Japan. So far Jenkins has refused to do so, citing fears that Tokyo may hand him over to the United States for court-martial because he is listed by Washington as an army deserter.

Under an extradition treaty with the United States, Japan has an obligation to consider handing Jenkins over to Washington if so requested. Indonesia has no such pact with the United States.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the government will continue efforts to enable Soga, Jenkins and their daughters to live in Japan.

“We have striven to realize a reunion as soon as possible, and we will continue efforts so Ms. Soga can live together with her family in Japan as she wishes,” Koizumi told reporters at his office.

Soga said the first thing she wants to do when she meets Jenkins and their two North Korean-born daughters — Mika, 21, and Belinda, 18 — is apologize for their time apart.

In October 2002, Soga and four other Japanese abducted by North Korea in 1978 returned to Japan in what was first thought to be a temporary homecoming. But they decided to stay and wait for members of their families still in North Korea to join them.

Koizumi brought the children of the other four returnees to Japan on May 22 when he made his second day trip to Pyongyang. But Jenkins refused to travel with him to Japan for fear of being handed over to U.S. authorities.

Soga said Tuesday she has no idea how long they will stay in Indonesia but emphasized that meeting her family there is the first step toward the goal of ultimately living together in Japan. She will fly to Jakarta Thursday to await her family’s arrival Friday aboard a Japanese government-chartered plane.

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