JAKARTA – North Korean officials said Friday they want Charles Jenkins, an alleged U.S. Army deserter, to live with his wife, repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga, and their two daughters and will respect his wishes.
The officials made the statement after they emerged from a meeting with Jenkins at a Jakarta hotel where his family has been staying since last week.
It was the first time the North Korean officials met with Jenkins, 64, since their arrival in Jakarta on July 9. The officials traveled from Pyongyang with Jenkins and the couple’s two daughters aboard a Japanese government-chartered plane.
North Korean officials entered the family’s hotel suite around midday and stayed for about 40 minutes.
During the meeting, Jenkins told the officials that he, his wife and their daughters will travel to Japan, Japanese government sources said.
In a move suggesting he would not return to North Korea, Jenkins handed the officials his North Korean bank notes and said he would not need them any more, the sources said.
After the talks, the officials said they are hoping for a speedy recovery for Jenkins, who is believed in poor health. He will be flown to Japan this weekend to receive medical treatment.
The Japanese government had refused to arrange a meeting, but gave in because not doing so “may damage bilateral (between Japan and North Korea) over the abduction issue,” a Japanese official said.
The North Korean officials had threatened to thwart Jenkins’ trip to Japan if Japanese officials continued to deny them a chance to meet with him.
Pyongyang had also asked the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta through the Indonesian government to arrange the meeting, saying it needed to confirm whether Jenkins is willing to travel to Japan.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters he believed Jenkins was ready to meet the North Korean officials because he has decided to go to Japan.
The North Koreans have been staying in the same hotel as Jenkins’ family, but had been denied access to the family’s suite.