July 21, 2005

US deserter denies being used by Japan vs. N.Korea

TOKYO (Reuters) - A former U.S. Army sergeant who deserted
to North Korea in 1965 and now lives in Japan angrily denied
Pyongyang's claims that Tokyo was using him to spread
propaganda against the Stalinist state, Kyodo news agency said
on Thursday.

Charles Robert Jenkins, 65, received a dishonorable
discharge last November after turning himself in to the U.S.
military in Japan.

"The Japanese government has never pushed me to say
anything," Kyodo quoted Jenkins as saying in a telephone
interview from his home on a remote island in northern Japan.

At a news conference in January -- after he had begun a new
life in Japan with the Japanese woman he met and married in
North Korea and the couple's two daughters -- he criticized
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, calling him an "evil man."

Jenkins said he was angry to hear that Kim had accused
Japan of using him as a propaganda tool to spur anti-North
Korea sentiment in Japan, Kyodo said.

Jenkins noted that Japan, unlike North Korea, has freedom
of speech, and he said it was North Korea that had used him as
a propaganda tool, according to Kyodo.

The North Korean leader told South Korean Unification
Minister Chung Dong-young in Pyongyang last month that Japan
was using Jenkins for anti-North Korean propaganda, Kyodo said.
Chung conveyed the comment to Taku Yamasaki, an adviser to
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, during a meeting in Seoul on
Sunday, the agency said.

The plight of the former U.S. soldier had fascinated the
Japanese public because his wife, Hitomi Soga, was one of more
than a dozen local citizens abducted and taken to North Korea
by its agents decades ago to teach them Japanese.

Jenkins was a 24-year-old sergeant stationed in South Korea
when he abandoned his unit on a cold night in January 1965 and
fled to the North. He told a court martial he was scared and
wanted to leave the army.

He was forced to become part of Pyongyang's propaganda
machine and married Soga, who had been kidnapped from her
homeland in 1978 when she was 19.

Jenkins now lives on Sado, about 300 km (190 miles)
northwest of Tokyo, with Soga, 46, and their daughters, who
were born in North Korea.

Soga was allowed to leave North Korea with four other
Japanese abductees in 2002, but Jenkins stayed behind with the
daughters for fear of severe punishment by the U.S. military.
In the end, the court martial sentenced him to 30 days'