Nearly 40 years after he allegedly defected to communist North Korea, U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Jenkins was back in uniform Saturday, billeted on this American military post and preparing to face charges against him.
Looking solemn, Jenkins arrived with his wife and two North Korea-born daughters at the gate of Camp Zama, the U.S. Army's headquarters in Japan, and gave a long salute as he was received by Lt. Col. Paul Nigara.
"Sir, I'm Sergeant Jenkins, and I'm reporting," he said.
Nigara, provost marshal for U.S. Army Japan, said: "I can assure you that you and your family will be treated with dignity and respect at all times."
Jenkins's surrender is a big step toward resolving a diplomatic headache for the United States and its close ally Japan. Japanese officials have urged leniency for the American, whose case has attracted broad sympathy here due to his long marriage to Hitomi Soga, a Japanese woman who was kidnapped and taken to North Korea by force.
At Camp Zama, Jenkins changed from civilian clothes into a short-sleeved Army uniform and signed paperwork to return to active duty. He was reinstated to the rank he held 39 years earlier and is to earn a monthly salary and allowances of $3,273.30.
He has been assigned to an administrative unit. He is not under arrest, but may not leave the camp. Jenkins and his family are staying at temporary lodging similar to a hotel.
U.S. authorities say that Jenkins, a native of Rich Square, N.C., slipped into North Korea one night in January 1965 while leading a patrol near the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.
Many legal analysts expect that Jenkins will try to reach a pretrial deal to plead guilty to one or more charges, but offer to tell the U.S. military what he knows about North Korea. In exchange, he would receive a punishment lighter than the maximum of life in prison.