WASHINGTON – The United States might demand that Japan hand over alleged U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins, now in a Tokyo hospital, for court-martial within a week, a U.S. administration official said Wednesday.
U.S. military authorities have already called on Washington to demand the handover within one or two weeks. Should Washington issue such a demand, the move would take place immediately, the official said.
The official also urged the 64-year-old Jenkins to turn himself in to avoid imprisonment, saying it is best for him to place himself under U.S. military control.
Calls for Jenkins’ handover have grown in the U.S. military following a report by Japan that his health has improved, sources familiar with Japan-U.S. ties said.
Jenkins is willing to meet a U.S. military lawyer for advice, but has yet to agree on a plea bargain, according to the U.S. official and the sources.
One of the sources said a U.S. military defense counsel in South Korea will arrive in Japan next week to meet Jenkins.
There is no one in the U.S. forces stationed in Japan who is directly supervised by the U.S. Army who can serve as a defense counsel for a court-martial, the sources said.
Japan and the United States agreed that Jenkins would not be detained while he seeks a plea bargain, the sources said.
Jenkins, who allegedly deserted and defected to North Korea in 1965 while serving as an army sergeant on patrol near the DMZ, married repatriated Japanese abductee Hitomi Soga in North Korea. He has been hospitalized in Tokyo since arriving from North Korea via Jakarta on July 18.
The U.S. military on July 18 transferred Jenkins’ duty records to Japan-based U.S. forces from the U.S. Army in South Korea.
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