JAKARTA – Hitomi Soga, her American husband Charles Jenkins and their two daughters remained cloistered in their suite in a Jakarta hotel Saturday after being reunited for the first time in 21 months, Japanese officials escorting Soga said.
Soga, who returned to Japan in 2002 after being abducted decades earlier by North Korea, expressed gratitude to the Indonesian government and people for their role in making the reunion possible.
“I would like to thank the Indonesian government and people from the bottom of my heart,” Soga said in a statement given to Kyoko Nakayama, adviser to the Cabinet Secretariat on the abduction issue.
“I am glad to be able to share time with the rest of my family for the first time in one year and nine months in this beautiful tropical country,” Soga said.
The Japanese government has said it will wait for the results of Soga’s efforts to try to persuade her husband and daughters to come to Japan. Soga has expressed a desire for the entire family to be able to live in Japan.
“One major hurdle of their reunion has been cleared,” an official said. “We will do our utmost to meet their requirements.”
Three North Korean officials traveled with Jenkins, 64, Mika, 21, and Belinda, 18, from Pyongyang to Jakarta on Friday on a Japanese government-chartered plane.
One of the North Korean officials told reporters the reunion is a “family matter, not a government-to-government issue.”
However, Japanese sources said the North Korean officials have requested a meeting with Jenkins since their arrival in Jakarta, which Japan has rejected.
Such a meeting “would damage the atmosphere in which the family can talk calmly,” one of the sources said.
“The officials who accompanied Jenkins have insistently requested a meeting (with Jenkins). We need to assess their real intentions,” another source said.
Jenkins has not asked for a meeting with the North Korean officials, the sources said.
The three North Korean officials, as well as the country’s diplomats at the embassy in Jakarta, have been trying to visit the Jakarta hotel suite where Soga, Jenkins and their two daughters are staying, the sources said.
Access to the suite has been blocked by hotel officials, who were asked to do so by the Japanese delegation, they said.
The North Korean officials are staying on a different floor than the family, and the Japanese government has taken all the rooms on the floor where the family’s suite is located.
Soga, 45, was abducted to North Korea in 1978 and repatriated in 2002, leaving Jenkins and their two North Korean-born daughters behind.
The family was reunited Friday afternoon at the Jakarta airport. Scenes of Soga and Jenkins embracing were broadcast in many countries.
Washington has listed Jenkins as deserting in South Korea from the U.S. Army and going to North Korea in 1965.