The U.S. ambassador to Japan suggested Saturday that the United States would allow accused American deserter Charles Robert Jenkins to receive medical treatment in Japan before it seeks to detain him on charges that he abandoned his post nearly 40 years ago in Korea.
Ambassador Howard H. Baker Jr. said the Japanese foreign minister had asked him to allow Jenkins to get help for an apparent abdominal condition. Jenkins, 64, was expected to fly to Japan Sunday from Indonesia, where he has reunited with his Japanese wife and two children.
The story of Jenkins and his wife, Hitomi Soga, has captivated Japan. Soga was kidnapped by North Korean spies in 1978 and allowed to return to Japan in 2002 for the first time in more than two decades.
But Jenkins, who had been living in North Korea with their two daughters did not go with her. Jenkins feared extradition, and the Bush administration has said that he must eventually face charges.
Baker's remarks, made after he met with Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi earlier in the day, were the first sign of a tentative accord between Washington and Tokyo over Jenkins's fate.
Jenkins, who disappeared while on patrol in 1965 and who later participated in anti-U.S. propaganda broadcasts and acted in North Korean films, is wanted in the United States on four charges, including desertion. He could face life in prison if convicted.