A U.S. military lawyer met with accused U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins at a Tokyo hospital on Thursday to offer advice on his options in facing the charges against him, government sources said.
The independent lawyer, who reportedly arrived from South Korea earlier in the day, was expected to offer information on the court-martial process and what would happen if Jenkins were to seek a plea bargain. Jenkins is married to Hitomi Soga, a Japanese abductee repatriated from North Korea.
The government hopes Jenkins, who allegedly deserted his army unit as a sergeant in 1965 and defected to North Korea while on a Demilitarized Zone patrol, will seek a plea bargain that will enable him to live with his family in Japan.
Jenkins, 64, has been hospitalized in Tokyo since arriving from North Korea via Jakarta on July 18. He stands accused of desertion, aiding the enemy, encouraging disloyalty and soliciting other service members to desert.
Top Japanese government officials declined comment on Jenkins’ meeting with the lawyer, saying that it is a matter between the two of them.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a news conference that he does not know whether the meeting took place and said he does not expect to be informed of the outcome of the meeting.
Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Tokyo will not comment on the meeting as it might negatively influence the court-martial process.
The meeting was apparently held between Jenkins and the lawyer without any Japanese official present.
Jenkins was technically reassigned to the U.S. forces in Japan from South Korea last month, a move suggesting that U.S. authorities intend to court-martial him at an American military installation in Japan instead of in the U.S.
A senior government official said Jenkins is expected to be court-martialed at Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture, where the U.S. Army is based.
Jenkins crossed the border between North and South Korea in 1965 while serving near the DMZ. He married Soga in 1980, two years after she was kidnapped to North Korea.
Tokyo has asked Washington to give Jenkins special consideration so that he will not be immediately handed over to the U.S. Washington has yet to demand Jenkins’ handover due to his hospitalization, but is expected to seek custody after his release from the hospital.
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