National

Soga arrives in Indonesia

Repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga arrived in Jakarta on Thursday ahead of her planned reunion with her husband and daughters, who are coming from North Korea.

Soga is due to meet her kin Friday for the first time in 21 months.

Soga, 45, arrived in Jakarta on a commercial plane from Narita airport, accompanied by Kyoko Nakayama, adviser to the Cabinet Secretariat on the North Korean abduction issue, and members of a government office working on behalf of abduction victims and their relatives.

At a welcoming ceremony in the Jakarta hotel where the family will be staying, Soga smiled as she received a bouquet of flowers from a girl.

“I am going to be meeting my family,” she said before being escorted to her room. “This has been made possible through the cooperation of the Indonesian government, and I would like to offer my heartfelt gratitude.”

In the Indonesian capital, Soga will await the arrival Friday of her American husband, 64-year-old Charles Robert Jenkins, and their North Korean-born daughters, Mika, 21, and Belinda, 18.

Jenkins and the couple’s daughters will fly from Pyongyang on a Japanese government-chartered plane, escorted by Japanese officials, including Akitaka Saiki, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.

Several North Korean officials are also expected to accompany them.

Their reunion was arranged in Indonesia because Jenkins, listed by Washington as a U.S. Army deserter, has refused to go to Japan, fearing he could be extradited for court-martial under a bilateral extradition treaty.

Indonesia has no extradition treaty with the United States.

Soga returned to Japan in October 2002, along with four other Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in 1978. They all had to leave their family members in North Korea behind.

The four other abductees — two couples — were reunited with their North Korea-born children in Japan in May, when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi brought them back after a summit in Pyongyang.

On Wednesday in Tokyo, Soga met Koizumi, who told her to enjoy her time with her family. Koizumi also voiced hope that the reunion will mark the first step by which the four will be able to live together in Japan.

Soga told a news conference Tuesday in Sado, Niigata Prefecture, that she eventually wants to live in Japan with her husband and daughters.

A Japanese government team, including officials from the Cabinet Secretariat office supporting victims of abduction by North Korea and their families, the National Police Agency and the Foreign Ministry, are already in Jakarta preparing for the reunion.

U.S. ambivalent

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) U.S. administration officials expressed no objection Wednesday to the planned reunion in Indonesia of freed Japanese abductee Hitomi Soga and her American husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, who is listed as a U.S. Army deserter, a former Japanese lawmaker said.

Both U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly said the United States is not opposing the reunion set for Friday in Jakarta, former Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Taku Yamasaki told a news conference after meeting separately with them.

Yamasaki, a close ally of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, said he asked the United States to “warmly” regard Soga’s family, but there was no response from the U.S. officials.

Coronavirus banner