LDP plans bill to speed up retrieval of Japan’s war dead

Kyodo

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is planning to propose new legislation to speed up the retrieval of remains of Japanese soldiers and civilians who died at home and abroad during the war, party sources said Saturday.

The LDP aims to submit a bill to an extraordinary Diet session in the autumn to accelerate the recovery of the remains of some 600,000 Japanese war dead from battlefields on Iwojima, in Okinawa Prefecture and in the Philippines, among other sites, the sources said.

The bill will call for the appointment of a state minister to oversee the retrieval process in a bid to reduce red tape, and for the designation of a special period of intensive collection efforts with an increased budget and personnel.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, only half of the remains of Japan’s estimated 2.4 million war dead have been returned. Excluding those believed to have been lost at sea, the government believes the remains of around 600,000 Japanese can still be retrieved.

Due to the difficulty of gaining information on burial sites from aging citizens who fought in or lived through the war, the remains of only 2,000 war dead were collected each of the last two fiscal years. The government began such efforts in 1952.

An LDP special committee on the issue concluded that the government has lagged in its retrieval process as the legal basis is weak, according to the sources.

Based on a Cabinet approval in 1952, the welfare ministry is mainly in charge of recovering the remains, with support from the Foreign and Defense ministries. However, the lack of firm legal ground has snarled the process in red tape, the sources said.

Under the new legislation, the LDP may designate the coming seven to 10 years as a period of intensive collection of the remains and increase the number of staff at diplomatic missions overseas to bolster information-gathering on burial sites.

The Japan Youth Memorial Association, a nonprofit organization supporting the retrieval process, has called for the enactment of a new law to speed things up, saying it usually takes two years for the government to take action after receiving new information about the remains of the war dead.