U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins -- accused of defecting to North Korea 39 years ago -- is back on active duty Saturday after voluntarily turning himself at a military base in Japan. The U.S. Army has leveled six charges against Jenkins, 65, including one charge of desertion. Jenkins saluted the provost marshal, Lt. Col. Paul Nigara, when he arrived at Camp Zama, and said, "Sir, I'm Sgt. Jenkins, and I'm reporting." Nigara returned the salute, informed Jenkins he was under the control of the U.S. Army and would be "treated with dignity and respect at all times." Jenkins was accompanied by his wife and two daughters. Jenkins disappeared from his Army unit near Korea's demilitarized zone in 1965. He later appeared in North Korean propaganda films and lived in the reclusive Communist country for nearly four decades, reports CNN. According to the NYTimes, Almost 40 years after disappearing one snowy night into the mists of North Korea, Charles Robert Jenkins, his face creased and his hair thinned, presented himself on Saturday here at the headquarters for the United States Army in Japan. Standing erect and holding a stiff salute before the top United States Army military police officer in Japan, he said, "Sir, I'm Sergeant Jenkins, and I'm reporting." Lt. Col. Paul Nigara, the provost marshal, replied, "You are now under the control of the U.S. Army." This simple exchange ended what a member of Sergeant Jenkins's North Carolina family described Saturday as "the longest patrol." On the night of Jan. 6, 1965, Sergeant Jenkins, a nine-year veteran, was leading a patrol along the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea when he told his unit that he was going ahead to investigate a noise. The next concrete sign of him came a few weeks later, when his voice crackled over North Korean loudspeakers, cursing his commanding officer by name. More appearances followed: playing the role of an evil American in a propaganda movie; leading anti-imperialist rallies in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital; and posing for a magazine cover. For these and other actions, Sergeant Jenkins, 64, faces a court-martial this fall on charges of desertion, aiding the enemy, two counts of encouraging disloyalty and two counts of soliciting other soldiers to desert. His defenders say that in North Korea there is no such thing as free will, and that he cannot be held responsible for his actions there. A plea bargain may avert a trial. Sergeant Jenkins is believed to have information about the fates of American defectors and American prisoners of war from the Korean War, which ended in 1953. Japan is pressing for leniency, because his wife, Hitomi Soga, is one of the dozen Japanese citizens North Korea admitted to abducting in the 1970's and 80's to teach Japanese to its spies. She was kidnapped in 1978. Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi acknowledged Saturday that Jenkins’ future was now a matter between him and the U.S. military, but said Tokyo hoped the family’s appeals to live together in Japan would be heard. “Japan has no prediction or preconception about the matter,” Kawaguchi told reporters. “We only hope that it may lead to a granting of the family’s wishes.” Though the Japanese public is sympathetic to Soga, U.S. officials have stressed Jenkins faces serious charges, particularly at a time when American soldiers are facing combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Family members in North Carolina have argued that Jenkins was kidnapped by North Korean agents and taken there against his will. But U.S. authorities say they have letters showing he intended to defect. Jenkins’ nephew, James Hyman, said he hoped the surrender would solve the mystery surrounding the case, publishes the Stars and Stripes.
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