Itsuo Inouye  /  AP
Accused U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins and his wife, Hitomi Soga, arrive at Tokyo's Haneda International Airport on July 18.
updated 7/27/2004 10:18:58 AM ET 2004-07-27T14:18:58

An accused U.S. Army deserter hospitalized in Japan plans to meet with U.S. military defense counsel to consult on the charges against him, the Japanese government said Tuesday.

No date has been set for a meeting between the lawyer and Charles Jenkins, who is accused of leaving his platoon and defecting to North Korea in 1965, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said.

“Mr. Jenkins indicated in the morning that he intends to meet with independent legal counsel, and we’d like to continue our negotiations,” Hosoda told reporters.

The U.S. military, which has some 50,000 troops based in Japan, provides legal assistance to court-martial defendants as its equivalent of a court-appointed defense lawyer.

Jenkins, 64, lived in North Korea until coming this month to Japan, where he has been receiving medical treatment for the after effects of prostate surgery in the communist nation.

The United States intends to pursue a case against him, but has delayed demanding custody in consideration of his medical condition. Doctors last week said that Jenkins has no grave illnesses.

Jenkins to weigh options
Hosoda said that the meeting did not mean that Jenkins would not fight the charges against him.

“It is not a precondition that he will plead guilty and plea-bargain,” Hosoda said. “First he will learn about what his legal problems are, what the issues are and about the legal system itself, and learn how to handle those issues.”

The Japanese government, which wants Jenkins to stay in Japan with his Japanese wife and two daughters, has urged U.S. authorities to be lenient with Jenkins.

Jenkins, a North Carolina native, is married to Japanese citizen Hitomi Soga. The two met after Soga was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1978 and taken to the communist country.

Soga was released by North Korea in 2002, but Jenkins and their two daughters stayed behind. Soga and Japanese officials, however, convinced Jenkins last month to risk prosecution by coming to Japan.

The U.S. military last week provided the Japanese government with information about its legal system, and speculation has been high in Japan that Jenkins could attempt a plea-bargain that would allow him to remain in Japan with his family.

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