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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July, 2004, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Japan abductee meets family again
Mr Jenkins, Ms Soga and their daughters are reunited
The reunion was an emotional moment
A Japanese woman who has not seen her North Korea-based family since she was freed from abduction by Pyongyang in 2002 has been reunited with them.

Her American husband Charles Jenkins and the couple's two daughters flew into Jakarta for the emotional meeting.

Mr Jenkins has chosen to remain living in North Korea, fearing prosecution by the US military for alleged desertion.

Indonesia, unlike Japan, has no extradition treaty with the US, making it a convenient meeting place.

Hitomi Soga was on the tarmac at Jakarta International Airport to meet Mr Jenkins and the couple's two North Korean-born daughters, Mika, 21, and Belinda, 18, according to a Japanese diplomat.

Charles Jenkins, after talking to Kyodo News on 29 November, 2002

The couple hugged and kissed each other, before the family boarded a bus to take them to a luxury city centre hotel. Japanese officials are due to brief the media later on Friday, but Mr Jenkins and Ms Soga are not due to meet the press, contrary to earlier reports.

Mr Jenkins has not stepped outside North Korea for more than 40 years, and Belinda and Mika have never left the secretive Stalinist state.

If Mr Jenkins is willing to talk, he could have some unique insights into North Korea - often described as the world's most isolated nation.

Ms Soga first met her husband in Pyongyang, after her abduction by North Korean agents in 1978 to act as a cultural trainer for the country's spies.

The last time Mr Jenkins saw the outside world, Lyndon Johnson was America's president and man had not yet landed on the moon.

He went missing in 1965 while leading a patrol near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). He told his platoon he was going to investigate a noise.

The US Army says he deserted, but relatives in the US believe that he, like Ms Soga, was kidnapped.

Diplomatic interest

The reunion is not just a moving human drama - it has also become an important diplomatic issue. The meeting is being staged just two days before upper house elections in Japan, and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been accused of making political capital out of the event.

JAPAN'S MISSING
Megumi Yokota (file picture)
Snatched in the '70s and '80s
Used as cultural trainers for N Korean spies
Five allowed home in 2002
Five children now freed from N Korea
Eight said to be dead, others missing

Jakarta, host to the reunion, wants to improve its relations with Japan, correspondents say. North Korea will hope this meeting takes it a step closer to resolving a longstanding row over at least a dozen Japanese nationals kidnapped by its secret agents in the 1970s and 80s.

Mr Koizumi has made the abduction issue central to normalising diplomatic relations with the North.

Hitomi Soga was allowed to go back to Japan in October 2002, following a high-profile visit to Pyongyang by Mr Koizumi.

But Mr Jenkins stayed behind with Belinda and Mika, fearing extradition to the US to be tried for deserting.

Mr Koizumi travelled to Pyongyang again in May and met Mr Jenkins, who said again that he did not want to leave North Korea.

The couple's enforced separation has been given wide and sympathetic coverage by the Japanese media.

It is not yet clear how long the reunion will last, but it is thought it will run to at least a few weeks. The booking at the hotel they are staying in is open-ended.

Ms Soga has said she wants to use the time to persuade her family to return to Japan with her, a possibility the North Korean authorities appear to accept.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has however made it clear that the US authorities are still taking outstanding charges against him seriously.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Andrew Harding
"Jenkins knew that if he left the North, he could be arrested by the Americans for desertion"



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