Accused U.S. Army Deserter in Fair Health



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TOKYO — ; Doctors treating accused U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins in Japan say his medical condition isn't serious but he needs more tests and is suffering from stress.

Jenkins, wanted by the United States for allegedly fleeing his Army platoon in 1965 and defecting to North Korea, has been hospitalized in Tokyo since arriving in Japan six days ago.

Citing privacy laws, doctors refused to specify Jenkins' ailment. But the hospital's deputy chief, Dr. Atsushi Nagai, said, "After examining him, it appears there is no need for immediate medical treatment."

Washington has repeatedly said it had the right to seek Jenkins' custody so that he can face court martial, but has put off doing so because of his poor health.

"He must cope with various problems and is suffering from serious psychological stress," Nagai said. "He cannot immediately return to ordinary life and it is necessary for him to stay in hospital to recover psychologically."

Jenkins is married to Japanese citizen Hitomi Soga, 45. They met in North Korea after Soga was kidnapped by Northern agents in 1978. The North released Soga in 2002 and she returned to Japan, leaving behind Jenkins and their two daughters. Japan wants Jenkins to be able to settle here with his wife.

Japanese officials say Jenkins, who has lived in the North for nearly four decades, was suffering the aftereffects of prostate surgery performed in North Korea.

Jenkins told doctors some details about his operation in North Korea, Nagai said. More tests in the next week will give doctors a better idea of how to treat him, Nagai said.

Although Jenkins had lost about 10 kilos (22 pounds) in recent months, he has a good appetite, doctors said.

Japanese media have followed the couple since they arrived. On Friday, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi met Soga and wished her younger daughter, 19-year-old Belinda, a happy birthday.

Soga told Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi that the girls seemed to be coming to terms with being in Japan, which North Koreans are taught to revile from an early age.

"I think they are beginning to comprehend by seeing with their own eyes, the differences between what they had heard before coming to Japan and what they are learning by coming to Japan and getting directly in touch with Japanese," a Foreign Ministry official quoted Soga as telling Kawaguchi. #####

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