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Those Wacky North Koreans


I've always liked them
North Korea 'bred spies using former US soldiers'

An American army sergeant who spent 40 years in North Korea has revealed that the Stalinist state operated a programme to breed spies who could pass themselves off as Westerners.

<script language=\"javascript\" src="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/core/NetGravity/mpu.js"></script><script src="http://ads.telegraph.co.uk/js.ng/site=news&spaceid=mpu&logstatus=f&tid=1094487694670&Section=news/international_news/asia/north_korea&view=details&xml=/news/2004/09/05/wnkor05.xml" language="JavaScript"></script> As a part of a plea-bargain with the American military, who want him court-martialled on desertion charges, Charles Jenkins has made the extraordinary claim that other former American soldiers living in North Korea were used to father children who are now operating as spies abroad.

Mr Jenkins disappeared from a guardbox on the Demilitarised Zone dividing Korea in 1965. He is now receiving medical treatment in a Tokyo hospital after being allowed to leave North Korea with his Japanese wife, but faces attempts to extradite him to the United States for trial.

According to testimony which Mr Jenkins will pass to the US, to whom he says he is ready to surrender, North Korean agents abducted women from eastern Europe and the Middle East, to be married to American soldiers in Pyongyang.

In a statement prepared by his American military lawyer, Mr Jenkins said: "In two of the cases, the Americans had multiple children who are now young adults who appear to be American or European."

According to Mr Jenkins's account, the Americans were allowed to marry only so that they could produce spies for North Korea, "so they could target American interests in South Korea and beyond".

To back up his claim, Mr Jenkins has produced a photograph of five people he alleges to be spies for North Korea. They are believed to be the children of three other American soldiers - James Dresnok, Larry Abshier and Jerry Wayne - who disappeared into North Korea during the Cold War. He says that the photograph was taken in April.

The 64-year-old infantry trooper was allowed to leave North Korea for the first time since 1965 in June. He and his two daughters flew first to Indonesia to meet his Japanese wife, Hitomi Soga, and then on to Japan.

After undergoing corrective treatment for a botched prostate operation carried out in North Korea, Mr Jenkins last week promised to turn himself in to the American military. Since then he has for the first time spoken of his hatred for the North Korean regime. Under its control he endured beatings as officials turned the American soldiers against each other.

The diminutive Mr Jenkins claims that he was repeatedly bullied by Mr Dresnok. "If I didn't listen to the North Korean government, they would tie me up, call Dresnok in to beat me. Dresnok really enjoyed it," he said.

The claim that North Korea ran a spy breeding programme is the latest in a long list of extraordinary operations that North Korea is believed to have undertaken in its struggle to gain information about the West.

An impoverished hardline Communist state, the country survives by devoting most of its resources to arms programmes and drug-running. Its reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il is known to have installed "pleasure squads" of young women from Asia and the Middle East in villas in Pyongyang. He is also fascinated by the world of espionage and regularly watches James Bond films in his private cinemas.

Kim has been accused of leading terrorist operations in the 1980s, including planting a bomb on a South Korean airliner, killing hundreds of people.

He was widely believed by the West to be insane until Madeleine Albright, the former American secretary of state, declared him to be "perfectly rational" after a summit in 2000.

The American military said last week that it would provide Mr Jenkins with a uniform and quarters on a base outside Tokyo when he surrenders. "We're always ready to take in deserters and receive them back," said Major John Amberg, a spokesman for the American army in Japan.