Charles Jenkins, an alleged U.S. Army deserter to North Korea who reunited with his Japanese wife, former abductee Hitomi Soga, last week in Jakarta, will come to Japan over this extended weekend and be hospitalized, government sources said Thursday.
Media reports said Jenkins, 64, is expected to come to Tokyo on Sunday, but government sources said a final decision on the date has yet to be made.
A government official said Jenkins, who is in great need of medical treatment, should be hospitalized on a day when hospitals are closed for outpatients, including next Monday, the Marine Day holiday, to avoid turmoil.
The government has already chartered a plane and is looking for a suitable hospital in Tokyo.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Jenkins is suffering the aftereffects of abdominal surgery he received in North Korea and must come to Japan for further care.
“Mr. Jenkins is in need of urgent” medical attention, Hosoda told a news conference. “Measures we are considering include a medical checkup, treatment and surgery.”
But Jenkins’ condition is not life-threatening, he added.
It is unclear whether Japan can avoid handing Jenkins over to U.S. authorities for a court-martial. Although Hosoda said Tokyo and Washington are in close contact on the matter, he denied news reports that the two sides had agreed that the U.S. would not seek Jenkins’ handover while he is hospitalized.
Japan hopes the U.S. will give humanitarian considerations due to Jenkins’ poor health. Tokyo also hopes Jenkins will be able to live permanently in Japan with Soga and the daughters.
Hosoda said Japan will continue to pursue this goal in talks with the U.S. while Jenkins is hospitalized.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said it is unlikely the U.S. would consider a possible pardon for Jenkins before the November presidential election, because the handling of an accused deserter is a sensitive issue with the U.S. still engaged in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A possible scenario might be having Jenkins face a summary judicial procedure while he is in the hospital, including questioning by U.S. government officials. Japanese officials say he might not face prison, considering his health and advanced age.
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