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Jenkins 'ready to meet military'


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Jenkins arrives in Japan.
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(CNN) -- Alleged U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins is willing to appear before the U.S. military in Japan for a plea bargain, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo.

Jenkins, 64, is alleged to have defected to North Korea 39 years ago while serving as a sergeant with the U.S. Army on the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

He has been resting in a Tokyo hospital apparently suffering after-affects from abdominal surgery he received in North Korea.

Jenkins arrived in Japan last month with his Japanese wife and North Korean-born daughters after a reunion in Indonesia.

Kyodo, quoting informed sources, reported Saturday that Jenkins has told the Japanese government he is prepared to appear at the U.S. Army's Japan headquarters at Camp Zama near Tokyo.

Earlier this month, James D. Culp, a U.S. military lawyer, visited Jenkins in hospital.

According to the Asahi newspaper Saturday, Culp spoke to Jenkins this week by phone about conditions for a plea bargain.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had lobbied hard for Jenkins to come to Japan amid a rising wave of public sympathy for his wife, Hitomi Soga, a former hostage taken by North Korean agents in 1978.

Jenkins had been initially reluctant to join Soga in Japan after she and four other former hostages were allowed by North Korea to return to their homeland in 2002.

He feared being extradited to the United States where he could face a military court-martial.

But after the couple reunited in Jakarta -- which has no extradition treaty with Washington -- Jenkins said he wanted to go to Japan for the sake of his family and was willing to face the risk of being handed over to U.S. officials.

The U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Howard Baker, said that Washington would not seek immediate custody of Jenkins and would allow doctors to treat him first.

Jenkins disappeared while on patrol near the Demilitarized Zone in 1965. Since then he appeared in propaganda films and lived in North Korea for nearly four decades.

Soga was kidnapped by North Korean spies in 1978 and taken from Japan to the communist state. She was one of at least 15 Japanese citizens grabbed to help train North Korean spies.

Fourteen years ago, she met and married Jenkins in North Korea.

In 2002, Soga returned to her homeland as part of a program to improve bilateral relations between Japan and North Korea.


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