JAKARTA, Indonesia – Japan's prime minister said Wednesday he wants to bring an accused U.S. Army deserter to Japan for medical treatment "as soon as possible" and would continue to press the United States not to prosecute the former American soldier.
The Japanese government has been awaiting the results of medical tests on Charles Jenkins (search) conducted Tuesday in Jakarta, Indonesia, before deciding whether to bring him to Japan for treatment of an unspecified ailment.
Jenkins, who had lived in North Korea since allegedly abandoning his Army unit in 1965, is in Jakarta for a reunion with his Japanese wife, Hitomi Soga (search).
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (search) said doctors who examined Jenkins had recommended that the 64-year-old American, originally from Rich Square, N.C., receive treatment in Japan soon.
"It would be best for him to come to Japan as soon as possible," Koizumi told reporters late Wednesday.
But the Japanese leader acknowledged the difficulties of persuading Washington, Tokyo's closest ally, not to charge Jenkins with desertion. Because of a bilateral pact, Tokyo would be hard pressed to resist a U.S. request for custody of Jenkins once he is in Japan.
"We have to find a solution that will satisfy both countries," Koizumi said.
Kyodo News service, citing unidentified Japanese officials, reported Wednesday that Jenkins was now willing to travel to Japan, despite fears that the United States will seek his handover.
Soga was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1978 and brought to the communist country to teach North Korean spies the customs and language of Japan.
Jenkins was assigned to teach her English, and they were married in 1980. Soga was allowed to return to Japan in 2002 with four other Japanese kidnap victims, but Jenkins and their two daughters remained in North Korea for fear of U.S. prosecution.
The family was reunited last Friday in Indonesia, which has no extradition treaty with the United States. Soga has told Japanese officials that she wants to live with her family in Japan.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda (search) said earlier Wednesday that Tokyo hadn't yet made any formal requests to Washington.
"We are not yet at a stage to officially conduct consultations," with the United States, Hosoda said at a news conference. "That is an issue to be handled later."
Since his arrival in Jakarta, Japanese media have reported that Jenkins had undergone an operation in North Korea and that a Japanese doctor had joined him on his flight from North Korea.