LDP eyes bill for faster recovery of soldiers’ war remains

KYODO

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is planning legislation to designate retrieval of the remains of Japanese who died in the war as “a state responsibility” and accelerate the work toward the 75th anniversary in 2020 of Japan’s World War II surrender, party lawmakers said Wednesday.

Under the legislation the party is set to propose, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP aims to increase the number of specialized staff at Japanese diplomatic missions abroad to beef up information-gathering and allocate more funds for the project.

It comes as the lack of close coordination among relevant ministries and insufficient funding have been blamed for hampering efforts to retrieve remains, even as the aging of informants about burial sites has made it more difficult to gather relevant information.

The legislation would call for appointing a state minister in charge of the recovery work, and encourage further involvement by the Foreign and Defense ministries in the project to collect remains in hard-fought battlefields, such as in the Philippines and Iwojima.

The LDP is expected to submit the legislation to the regular Diet session planned from Jan. 24, and seek support from other political parties, according to the lawmakers who sit on the ruling party’s panel on the retrievals.

About 2.4 million Japanese soldiers and civilians died in Japan and abroad during the war. The remains of around 1.13 million were still unearthed at the end of last March. An estimated 600,000 can be recovered, according to data by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The ministry has been mainly taking charge of the recovery activities based on Cabinet approval in 1952, but critics have argued that the lack of firm legal grounds for the project has hampered retrieval efforts.

The ministry data show the remains of up to 2,000 war dead were collected each year in fiscal 2011 and 2012.

The LDP initially planned to submit similar legislation in the extraordinary Diet session that ended in December, but postponed it to hammer out details.