Accused Deserter to Surrender to U.S. Military

Accused U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins (search) will turn himself over to the U.S. military "very shortly" to face the charges against him, he said in a letter released by the Japanese government Wednesday.

In the letter, which was issued by the Cabinet office handling his case, Jenkins said he intended to "voluntarily report to Camp Zama (search) ... to begin the process that will bring closure to my pending legal situation."

Camp Zama is a U.S. Army base south of Tokyo (search).

Jenkins, of North Carolina, is accused of deserting from his U.S. Army unit in 1965 and defecting to North Korea. He later participated in propaganda broadcasts and played malevolent American characters in North Korean movies.

He arrived in Japan in July to receive medical treatment after being reunited in Indonesia with his Japanese wife, whom he met in North Korea.

Jenkins said he hoped to be healthy enough "very shortly" to leave the hospital and go to Camp Zama.

"I will soon voluntarily face the charges that have been filed against me by the U.S. Army," Jenkins said the letter, which he signed "Charles Robert Jenkins, Sergeant, United States Army."

The U.S. military welcomed the announcement.

"Sgt. Jenkins faces serious charges and we have long contended that he needs to avail himself of the military justice system," said Col. Victor Warzinski, spokesman for U.S. Forces Japan. "So we will be prepared to receive him."

Yu Kameoka, spokesman for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, refused to comment. "The issue is between the U.S. military and Mr. Jenkins," he said.

James B. Craven III, who represents Jenkins' family in the United States in their efforts to have him pardoned, said the announcement suggested Jenkins had struck a deal with military prosecutors.

"I think that means that a plea agreement has been worked out -- in fact, I'm sure that's what it means," he said from his home in North Carolina.

Japan has urged the United States to treat Jenkins with leniency. Jenkins' wife, Hitomi Soga, was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1978 and repatriated to Japan in 2002, and her plight has won widespread sympathy in Japan. The couple has two daughters who came with Jenkins to Japan.

The United States has said it intends to press its case against Jenkins, but has allowed him to stay in a Japanese hospital to recuperate from an operation he had in North Korea.

Jenkins, 64, has been meeting with independent counsel provided by the U.S. military to explore his legal options. Many have speculated he could attempt a plea-bargain.

In his three-paragraph letter, Jenkins gave no firm timetable for his surrender or hint at what his legal strategy would be. He thanked the Japanese government and praised the "excellent medical care" he has received there.

Jenkins, who came to Japan after reuniting with Soga in Jakarta, Indonesia, denied that he ever intended to use his connection with Japan to avoid facing U.S. military justice.

"When I stepped onto the plane that carried my family and me from Indonesia to Japan, it was my full intention to voluntarily report to the U.S. Army base in Japan to face the allegations that have been charged against me," he wrote.

Jenkins said he was "very ill" when he arrived in Japan, though he divulged no details of his medical condition.