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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 September, 2004, 04:31 GMT 05:31 UK
US 'deserter' hands himself over
Charles Jenkins, left, salutes US military police officer Paul Nigara
Jenkins steps on to a US military base for the first time in 39 years
A former American soldier accused of defecting to North Korea in 1965 has given himself up to the US military authorities in Japan.

Charles Jenkins, 64, snapped a salute and announced he was reporting for duty as he arrived at the army base near Tokyo with his family.

Mr Jenkins faces a possible court martial on charges of desertion.

But public sympathy for him in Japan has led to speculation that the US military may accept a plea bargain.

Mr Jenkins, his Japanese wife and two daughters are expected to stay at Camp Zama while he is questioned.

In the eyes of the US military, he is a deserter who is still on active duty - and as such, subject to army discipline.

He also faces charges of aiding the enemy for the role he played in North Korean propaganda films.

He could face a maximum sentence of life in prison if he is found guilty.

Sensitive case

Mr Jenkins has been receiving medical treatment in Tokyo since mid-July and was taken from the hospital to the base by mini-van.

Upon his arrival, he was met by the provost marshal Lt Col Paul Nigara and declared: "Sir, I'm Sergeant Jenkins and I'm reporting."

We hope that the four of us can live together as soon as possible
Hitomi Soga
Mr Jenkins' wife
Lt Col Nigara responded, "You are now under the control of the US Army," before escorting him into a building on the base.

The BBC's Jonathan Head says Mr Jenkins will be given an army uniform to wear.

"He'll be treated with dignity and fairness, and he's innocent until proven guilty," said army spokesman Major John Amberg.

Mr Jenkins has never explained how he ended up in North Korea. His relatives say he was kidnapped.

But the fact that while in North Korea, Mr Jenkins married a Japanese woman - who was abducted by North Korean agents as a teenager - has made his case a sensitive one for US-Japanese relations, our correspondent adds.

Plea bargain

His wife Hitomi Soga was allowed to return to Japan in 2002 and persuaded him to join her with their two daughters, despite the threat of prosecution by the American military.

The family held a dramatic reunion in Indonesia, which - unlike Japan - does not have an extradition treaty with the US.

Mr Jenkins and his two daughters leave hospital in Tokyo for the US military base

His wife said earlier on Saturday: "I expect we have a lot more to face in the days to come but we hope that the four of us can live together as soon as possible."

Many in Japan have called for a deal that could keep Mr Jenkins out of prison.

Our correspondent says they hope he might tell the US authorities everything he learnt while living in the secret communist state to avoid a prison sentence.

But the US authorities have given no indication that they will treat Mr Jenkins leniently.

The BBC's Jonathan Head
"Jenkins must now explain his long absence"

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18 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
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08 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Japan pleads with US for Jenkins
19 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific

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