TOKYO, Sept. 1, 2004-Alleged U.S. army deserter Charles Jenkins has said he will turn himself over to United States military "very shortly" to face charges.
"I will soon voluntarily face the charges that have been filed against me by the U.S. Army,'' Jenkins said in a statement, which he signed "Charles Robert Jenkins, Sergeant, United States Army."
Lawyers working for his family in the United States say they expect he will make a plea bargain with the U.S. military, potentially avoiding a prison sentence. Desertion carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
U.S. military lawyer James D. Culp will act as Jenkins's independent defense counsel. The two men have already met at Jenkins' hospital bedside to resolve the legal problem and clear the way for him to settle in Japan.
His wife, who was kidnapped by North Korea in 1978, is a Japanese citizen.
Hitomi Soga was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1978 and taken to the communist state to train spies in Japanese language and culture. She was allowed to return to Japan in 2002, but Jenkins and their two daughters stayed behind.
Following a summit between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in May, Jenkins and his two daughters were reunited with Soga in Jakarta, Indonesia. They came to Japan a week later.
Jenkins also recently gave his first account of the miserable conditions he endured in North Korea, where he lived from 1965, telling the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review that he hated the Stalinist regime and tried to escape in 1966.
"My wife and I became very close... because she hated the (North) Korean government as well as I," the Review quoted Jenkins as saying.
The magazine cited legal documents filed on Jenkins's behalf saying that he tried to flee from North Korea in 1966. But it said he refused to discuss whether he was guilty of desertion or if North Korea kidnapped him as his family has claimed.
The report said he would base his defense in part on claims that he cooperated with the communist regime to avoid the death penalty and keep his family together. Jenkins had also offered to provide information on the use of foreign nationals in the North Korean spy program, the Review said.