Former U.S. Army Sergeant Charles Jenkins is on his way to the United States - 40 years after he defected to North Korea.

Jenkins flew out of an airport near Tokyo Tuesday accompanied by his Japanese wife and two daughters, bound for his home state of North Carolina.

Jenkins will visit his 91-year-old mother during the week-long trip.

He was allowed to leave North Korea last July, and eventually served 25 days in a U.S. military jail. He says he originally defected to avoid being sent to Vietnam.

Jenkins met his wife, Hitomi Soga, after she was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1978. She was allowed to return to Japan in 2002.

Jenkins and his wife now live on a small Japanese island.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.