Charles Robert Jenkins, the American husband of repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga, would not necessarily be imprisoned if he came to Japan, even though he will probably face a U.S. court-martial for desertion, government sources claimed Wednesday.
Soga will be reunited with her family later this week in Jakarta.
Tokyo will dispatch a lawyer well-versed in U.S. legislation to the Indonesian capital to explain this to Jenkins as part of efforts to persuade him to come to Japan to live with his wife, the sources said.
The United States lists Jenkins, 64, as having deserted from the U.S. Army in 1965 while serving as a sergeant in South Korea near the demilitarized zone.
“Mr. Jenkins may be thinking that he will face the maximum penalty (of capital punishment) if he is court-martialed,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official who asked not to be named.
“But given past cases (of U.S. deserters), common sense would dictate that this will not be the case, given the period of time (since his desertion) and his age.”
Jenkins must show remorse for his past conduct and apologize, he said, reckoning this is an essential point for the U.S. side.
Tokyo had hoped the U.S. would show clemency, but Washington has stood firm in its demand that Jenkins be handed over for court-martial if he comes to Japan.
Later Wednesday, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and visiting U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice agreed during an evening meeting to continue discussing the Jenkins issue, according to Japanese officials.
Soga, Jenkins and their two daughters will be reunited Friday for the first time since Soga returned to Japan in October 2002.
On Wednesday, Soga traveled to Tokyo from her hometown of Sado, Niigata Prefecture, and held brief meetings separately with Koizumi and Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi to thank the government for its efforts to realize the reunion.