Ill U.S. expatriate arrives in Japan

TOKYO – Gripping a cane and looking haggard, an American accused of deserting the U.S. Army and defecting to North Korea was hospitalized immediately after he arrived in Japan on Sunday, putting himself within the reach of U.S. authorities for the first time in 39 years.

Charles Jenkins, who vanished from his platoon in 1965 and later played devilish American characters in communist propaganda films, faces possible U.S. military prosecution on desertion and other charges in Japan, although American officials have suggested they will delay taking him into custody.

Jenkins’ family in the United States has denied he is a deserter, maintaining that he was kidnapped by North Korea.

Jenkins’ arrival, broadcast live by Japanese TV networks, drew deep public sympathy over the plight of his Japanese wife, Hitomi Soga, who married him after she was kidnapped in Japan by North Korean agents in 1978 and taken to the communist country. The couple has two daughters, Mika, 21, and Belinda, 18.

The family arrived on a Japanese government-chartered flight from Jakarta, Indonesia, where they had held an emotional reunion after nearly two years of separation. Soga returned to Japan from North Korea with four other abductees in 2002, but Jenkins stayed behind with their daughters, fearing U.S. prosecution. Japan has an extradition treaty with the United States; Indonesia does not.

Japanese and American officials say Jenkins, 64, needs medical attention after abdominal surgery in North Korea and for other health problems.

He stepped painfully down the stairs from the government plane, clutching his cane as Soga supported him. When someone shouted to ask him how he felt, he shook his head sadly as he limped to a bus that took the family to a hospital.

The Japanese government, eager to reunite Soga’s family, has pushed for U.S. clemency for the North Carolina native and stood by its position that Jenkins’ health should take priority over his legal problems.

Jenkins reached Japan just days after authorities here helped Washington with another fugitive case – that of chess legend Bobby Fischer, who has been sought by the United States for attending a 1992 match in Yugoslavia despite international sanctions.

Fischer was detained Tuesday in Japan, in a move that showed it willing to cooperate while still making the case on leniency for Jenkins.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

Snohomish County likely to feel more like winter, beginning Monday

Get ready for a mix of rain and snow this week, along with cooler temperatures.

Anthony Boggess
Arlington man sentenced for killing roommate who offered shelter

Anthony Boggess, 33, reported hearing the voices of “demons” the night he strangled James Thrower, 65.

Snohomish County pharmacy tech accused of stealing 2,500 opioid pills

Rachel Langdon stole oxycodone while working at a Snohomish County pharmacy, according to state Department of Health allegations.

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, left, a member of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, speaks Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, right, looks on at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. After the speech, Inslee signed a bill sponsored by McCoy that seeks to improve oral health on Indian reservations in Washington state. The measure is the first bill the governor has signed this legislative session and it allows tribes to use federal funding for dental therapists. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Curriculum on state tribes to be renamed after late Tulalip legislator

On Tuesday, John McCoy’s former colleagues in the Senate honored the late lawmaker by passing House Bill 1879.

Man stabbed, killed inside Lynnwood-area condo

Detectives were looking to identify suspects in a killing Monday night at the Brio Condominiums.

Everett Housing Authority is asking for city approval for it’s proposed development of 16 acres of land currently occupied by the vacant Baker Heights public housing development on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
North Everett housing project plan gets taller with 15-story buildings

The original plans for the Park District called for 12-story apartments. Another public hearing is set for March 5.

Mt. Pilchuck covered in snow is barely visible through the clouds as the sun breaks through illuminating raindrops as they fall off of the Mountain Loop Highway on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Active’ weather brings rain, snow, hail, fresh powder to Snohomish County

Up to an inch of snow could accumulate in the lowlands. Three inches of rain could fall in Darrington. And Stevens Pass is “doing quite well.”

Cousins Penny Leslie and Sidney Baker work together on a mural inside a jail cell at the Mukilteo Police Department on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
No more staring at blank canvas in Mukilteo police holding cells

Bright murals now adorn the walls. The artwork is intended to calm and relax detainees.

Joanne Fisher, right, a meat wrapper with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on  Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Fisher was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
US sues to block merger of grocery giants Kroger, Albertsons

Grocery workers in Snohomish County and elsewhere have argued the merger would stymie competition and hurt workers.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee during its meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, where the panel indicated it would not move ahead with legislation to cap residential rent increases at 7%. The move effectively killed the bill for the 2024 legislative session. (Bill Lucia/Washington State Standard)
Plan for 7% statewide cap on rent increases fails in Olympia

State Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, told reporters the bill did not have enough support to move it forward.

Shoppers cross Alderwood Mall Parkway after leaving the mall and walking through its parking lot on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood police seek 3 suspects after pursuit, brief shootout

The driver of a stolen car intentionally hit a teen boy Sunday, officers said. Police pursued the suspects near I-5.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.