Sun, Jul 25, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Diplomats check on Jenkins' progress in Japanese hospital

AFP , TOKYO

A group of US diplomats visited a Tokyo hospital on Friday to be briefed on the progress of an alleged US army deserter accused by Washington of defecting to Stalinist North Korea in the 1960s.

It was the first visit by US officials to the Tokyo Women's University Hospital since Charles Robert Jenkins, 64, was admitted immediately after arriving in Japan, where he hopes to settle, on July 18.

The US delegation, including a military doctor, was briefed by Japanese doctors about Jenkins' state of health but none of the officials met him, Hiroshi Touma, director of the hospital, told a news conference.

Jenkins faces court martial by the US military for desertion to North Korea following his disappearance on South Korea's border with the North in 1965, but Japan is unwilling to see him handed over to US authorities.

Although Japan and the US have an extradition treaty, Washington has offered to delay a request for his handover while he is being treated.

After talking to Jenkins, Tokyo has concluded that a plea bargain is the best way to resolve his alleged desertion, Kyodo news quoted Japanese government sources as saying on Friday. It did not offer any details of the possible plea agreement.

The hospital, which assigned a 15-member medical team to Jenkins, did not specify his ailments during talks with the US officials, said Atsushi Nagai, vice-director of the hospital, who is in charge of the medical team.

He said that Jenkins was recovering but needed to undergo more thorough medical tests next week.

"Overall he is recovering ... Based on the results of our initial screening tests, I can say that his health condition is not so bad," Nagai said.

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