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Jenkins could meet lawyer soon

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Jenkins arrives in Japan.
Should the U.S. pursue desertion charges against a former soldier who allegedly defected to North Korea?
Robert Jenkins
North Korea
United States

(CNN) -- Alleged U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins could meet with a military lawyer soon, according to a Japanese government official.

"The conditions are in place," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said on Monday.

"Depending on the circumstances of the U.S. military counsel and Mr Jenkins' health, the meeting could take place soon," Reuters reported him as saying.

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.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has 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 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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