A U.S. military defense lawyer may meet with accused deserter Charles Jenkins by the end of this week, Japanese government sources said Monday.
A U.S. military spokesman said the United States has provided Japan with defense counsel information, indicating the U.S. military and Japanese government are already in contact about having Jenkins meet the independent military lawyer to discuss the charges leveled against him.
Jenkins, who is married to repatriated Pyongyang abductee Hitomi Soga, is accused of deserting and defecting to North Korea in 1965.
“In response to a request from the Japanese Foreign Ministry, we have provided . . . some information on our court-martial process and defense counsel system,” Col. Victor Warzinski, public affairs director of the U.S. military forces in Japan, told Kyodo News.
Warzinski declined to elaborate on matters such as the timing of a meeting between Jenkins and the lawyer.
But they are expected to discuss whether Jenkins, 64, who has been hospitalized since arriving in Japan on July 18, might seek a plea bargain with the U.S. government.
“The meeting could take place as early as this week,” one of the sources said.
The charges against Jenkins also include aiding the enemy, encouraging disloyalty and soliciting other service members to desert.
Earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters that Jenkins needs to meet with experts on U.S. courts-martial before Japan and the U.S. can settle his case.
“On the part of the government, it is quite difficult to clearly say” what options Jenkins has in seeking to stay in Japan, he said at a news conference. “He has to get information from relevant people.”
Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Shinzo Abe suggested arranging attorneys for Jenkins so he can discuss the matter with U.S. judicial authorities.
The government is still waiting for his reply and has no plans to rush him, Hosoda said.
Tokyo has asked Washington to give Jenkins special consideration so that he, his wife and their two North Korea-born daughters can live together in Japan. Tokyo considers a plea bargain the best way to resolve the issue, Japanese officials have said.
Washington apparently plans to seek custody of Jenkins after he exits the hospital.
Jenkins is said to have crossed the border between North and South Korea in 1965, while serving in the U.S. Army near the Demilitarized Zone as a sergeant. Relatives in the United States reject the claim that he deserted, arguing instead that Jenkins was taken captive.
He married Soga in 1980, two years after she was kidnapped by North Korean agents.