Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he plans to seek special consideration from the US for an accused deserter married to a Japanese woman, Kyodo news agency said yesterday.
"I think we have to negotiate with the United States while he is being treated for his illness and, if possible, seek special consideration," Kyodo quoted Koizumi as telling reporters on a visit to Niigata, northwest of Tokyo, which has been hit by severe flooding over the past week.
US officials have repeatedly claimed a right to request Charles Jenkins, 64, be handed over for trial, but have also said they may give consideration to his illness. Analysts say there may be a tacit agreement to try to avoid a row with key ally Japan.
Jenkins rested in a Tokyo hospital yesterday, while many Japanese hoped Washington would be lenient in its desertion case against him so he may resettle here with his Japanese wife.
Jenkins was to undergo testing starting today to determine how he should be treated, a hospital official said on condition of anonymity. The Japanese government says Jenkins suffers from after-affects of abdominal surgery he received in North Korea and needs urgent care.
Jenkins, who disappeared near the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea in 1965, arrived in Japan on Sunday with his Japanese wife and their North Korea-born daughters.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had lobbied hard for him to come to Japan amid an outpouring of public sympathy for his wife and her plight as a former victim of kidnapping by the North Korean state.
His wife, Hitomi Soga, was abducted from her hometown on the small island of Sado in the Sea of Japan in 1978 and taken to the North to teach Japanese to communist spies. She lived for 24 years in the North, where she met and married Jenkins. Pyongyang allowed her to return to Japan two years ago, but she had to leave Jenkins and the two daughters behind.
Soga, 45, and the Japanese government hope Jenkins will settle here permanently so his family can live together on Sado.
Jenkins had initially been reluctant to join his wife in Japan for fear he would be extradited to the US to face charges of desertion. But after being reunited last week with his wife in Indonesia, which doesn't have an extradition treaty with the US, Jenkins said he wanted to go to Japan for the sake of his family and was willing to risk being handed over to US custody.
Washington says Jenkins is still wanted on four counts, but US Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker indicated the US would not immediately seek custody of Jenkins while he was being treated.
Jenkins looked weakened and haggard when got off his flight from Indonesia on Sunday, leaning heavily on a cane and his wife as he walked across the airport tarmac to a waiting bus.