Accused U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins hopes to get a dishonorable discharge in a plea bargain with the U.S. military to avoid imprisonment, diplomatic sources said Sunday.
The sources said Jenkins, 64, has told Japanese government officials of his intent. He is believed also to have conveyed it to Capt. James Culp, an independent U.S. military lawyer who has met him in Tokyo several times.
Jenkins, a U.S. Army sergeant married to Hitomi Soga, a former abductee in North Korea, has been hospitalized in Tokyo since arriving from Jakarta on July 18. He is charged with desertion, aiding the enemy, encouraging disloyalty and soliciting other personnel to desert.
Culp and the U.S. forces in Japan have already discussed procedures for a plea bargain and the U.S. side is expected to deliver its decision as early as next month.
Citing his poor health, Jenkins told Japanese officials he wants to avoid being taken into custody by the U.S. military, the sources said.
To avoid punishment, he said he would enter a plea bargain by providing the U.S. government with information on U.S. and South Korean soldiers who are in North Korea and he would accept a dishonorable discharge, according to the sources.
He would then like to live permanently in Japan with Soga and their two North Korea-born daughters, Mika and Belinda, the sources said.
Under the U.S. military code, possible nonjudicial punishments on military personnel found guilty include admonition, demotion and discharge.
In Washington, the Defense Department and the State Department appear split on the issue. The Pentagon believes a firm stance should be taken on Jenkins while the State Department hopes for a resolution with some consideration given to Japan-U.S. relations.
Culp, who is stationed with the U.S. forces in South Korea, is expected to return to Japan this week to discuss the matter with Jenkins again.
Sources have said earlier that Jenkins has told Japanese officials he is willing to appear voluntarily before the U.S. Army in Japan at its headquarters at Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Jenkins, Soga and their daughters came to Japan after being reunited on July 9 in Jakarta.
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