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US Army Deserter Heads to New Life With Family in Japan

A former U.S. Army Sergeant who spent nearly 40 years in North Korea has left a U.S. military base in Japan to begin a new life with his family.

Charles Jenkins, riding in a mini-van with his wife and two daughters, received a police escort out of Camp Zama Tuesday morning.

Mr. Jenkins deserted from his U.S. Army unit to North Korea in 1965, hoping to go on to the Soviet Union and then back to the United States. He wound up trapped in the Stalinist state, where he met his wife, Hitomi Soga, who was kidnapped from Japan by North Korean agents in 1978.

Pyongyang allowed Ms. Soga to return to Japan in 2002, with four other abductees, but it took two years to arrange for Mr. Jenkins and the couple's two daughters to join her. Part of the problem was Mr. Jenkins' fear of prosecution for deserting.

Shortly after they left the U.S. Army base near Tokyo, Shinzo Abe, one of the top lawmakers of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, expressed relief that the family's ordeal was finally over. Mr. Abe said he is grateful for the tolerance the U.S. government has shown. Mr. Abe added he was happy that the family can finally realize its dream of living together in Japan.

Mr. Abe, who is in charge of the care of abduction victims repatriated from North Korea, says the L.D.P. will fully support Mr. Jenkins and his family.

The family will settle in Ms. Soga's hometown on remote Sado Island.

Mr. Jenkins last month was convicted in a U.S. Army court of deserting. He served three weeks of a one-month sentence.

His final military discharge will be completed in a few weeks.

The conclusion to the saga came only after high-level diplomacy involving Japan, North Korea and the United States. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to see North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang helped lead to the release of five abductees, and later, Ms. Soga's husband.

Mr. Koizumi also appealed to President Bush to go easy on Mr. Jenkins in charging him with desertion.

North Korea has admitted kidnapping 12 Japanese to train its spies, but only five were returned to Japan. Pyongyang says the others died. Tokyo has been demanding a more detailed accounting of their fates and those of two other people believed to have been snatched.