Sun, Jul 18, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Alleged US deserter scheduled to meet Indonesian leader


A former US soldier who is alleged to have deserted to North Korea four decades ago was to meet Indonesian President Mega-wati Sukarnoputri yesterday, an Indonesian official said.

Charles Robert Jenkins, his Japanese wife Hitomi Soga and their two daughters are sche-duled to meet Megawati at her private residence at 5pm, said presidential spokesman Garibaldi Sujatmiko.

Jenkins, who is suffering complications from earlier stomach surgery and other ailments, is set to travel to Japan today for medical treatment despite attempts by Washington to pursue legal action against him.

In Tokyo earlier yesterday, US ambassador to Japan Howard Baker said Washington may delay its request for Jenkins' transfer to US custody due to his health condition.

"I acknowledged to Foreign Minister [Yoriko] Kawaguchi that the US government is sympathetic to his health condition and that Sergeant Jenkins' medical condition may delay our request for his transfer to US custody," he said in a statement after holding talks with the Japanese minister.

"There are no plans for US officials to see Jenkins in the immediate future," Baker added, while noting Washington has "the right to custody of Sergeant Jenkins and will do so at the appropriate time."

Baker told officials of the Japanese ruling coalition he believed Jenkins should turn himself in to US authorities and negotiate.

Washington has viewed Jenkins as a deserter since he disappeared near the border between North and South Korea while on patrol in 1965. Japan would have a treaty obligation to hand him over. However Jenkins's family in the US say they believe he did not desert but was captured and then brainwashed in the Stalinist state.

North Korean officials, who had initially resisted Jenkins' decision to go to Japan, said here on Friday they would now respect his wishes.

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