TOKYO – A former U.S. soldier accused of defecting to North Korea (search) decades ago underwent tests at a Tokyo hospital on Tuesday after Washington said it would hold off, for now, on demands that he be turned over to face desertion charges.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (search) said he hoped Tokyo and Washington could agree on a solution that would allow 64-year-old Charles Jenkins (search) to stay in Japan with his Japanese wife and two daughters.
The hospital where Jenkins was staying refused to provide any information about his condition. Tokyo has said Jenkins was suffering from the after-effects of abdominal surgery he had in North Korea several months ago and needed immediate medical attention.
Government spokesman Hiroyuki Hosoda said it would be several days before the results of his medical examinations would become available. How soon the doctors come up with a treatment plan for Jenkins will depend on the seriousness of his condition, he added.
Jenkins went straight to a downtown Tokyo hospital after arriving in Japan on Sunday on a flight from Indonesia, where he was reunited with his Japanese wife, Hitomi Soga. Soga met Jenkins in North Korea after she was abducted by North Korean agents in 1978. She was allowed to return to Japan, alone, in 2002.
Soga visited government officials Tuesday while her family stayed at the hospital.
"I'm grateful that (Jenkins) has been taken in and that I've been able to come home," Soga said. "I ask for your cooperation as we have more difficult problems ahead of us."
Jenkins, originally from North Carolina, has become a high-profile guest of the Japanese government as Tokyo tries to help his wife rebuild her life in Japan. He arrived on Sunday with the couple's two North Korea-born daughters.
He was originally reluctant to come to Japan for fear he would be extradited to the United States. However, after reuniting with his wife last week in Indonesia, which doesn't have an extradition treaty with the United States, he said he was willing to go to Japan to keep his family together, despite the risk of prosecution.
Koizumi said his government wants to explore ways of resolving the issue with Washington.
"There are legal issues concerning Soga's family living in Japan. We would like to explore solutions that would satisfy both Japan and the United States," Koizumi told reporters. "We would like to explore ways to resolve the issue by overcoming our differences."
The United States has said that while it is sympathetic to Jenkins' family, which was divided for nearly two years, he is still wanted on four counts, including allegedly deserting his post near the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea in 1965.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday that Washington may be willing to defer prosecution of Jenkins but not indefinitely.
"We are considerate of the humanitarian situation" and of Jenkins' medical condition, Boucher said. "While we do expect to present a legal request for custody at the appropriate time, we won't be doing that right away."
The United States is entitled to request custody of Jenkins under a bilateral agreement covering the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan.