WASHINGTON – Washington’s case against alleged U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins will probably not become a major issue affecting bilateral relations, though a presidential pardon is not in the cards, a White House official told a Diet member Tuesday.
Jenkins, currently in Japan for medical treatment and thus not immune from a bilateral extradition treaty, is married to repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga.
Hidenao Nakagawa, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Diet Affairs Committee, said Michael Green, senior director for Asian affairs at the White House’s National Security Council, told him the Jenkins case will be dealt with in accordance with legal procedures while taking Japan-U.S. relations into account.
Green did not mention a specific way to resolve the Jenkins case but ruled out the option of a pardon, saying it is legally and politically difficult, Nakagawa told reporters. The U.S. is believed to be considering a plea-bargain or reduced sentence in exchange for Jenkins’ full cooperation in questioning.
Jenkins, Soga and their two North Korean-born daughters arrived in Tokyo on Sunday after reuniting July 9 in Jakarta for the first time since October 2002, when Soga was allowed to return from North Korea.
Jenkins, 64, was admitted to a Tokyo hospital for medical treatment as a followup to recent surgery he had in North Korea and for what doctors have called “internal organ problems.”
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said he will seek “special consideration” from the United States for Jenkins.
Washington has said it will not seek the handover of Jenkins for the time being while he is hospitalized.
The U.S. military lists Jenkins as having deserted in 1965 while serving as a sergeant near the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.