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The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to increase its use of DNA testing to identify the remains of Japanese soldiers who were buried overseas, ministry officials said Tuesday.

The ministry has been storing since fiscal 1999 some 5,000 sets of remains that were cremated abroad; it has also kept teeth and body tissue that can be used in the tests.

DNA testing has been permitted in some cases in which the possibility of identification is high, with families paying a fee of about 50,000 yen.

Thirty-three such tests have been performed so far. The identities of 10 individuals have been confirmed.

The ministry plans to proceed with DNA testing of the 5,000 sets of remains for which family consent has been obtained, including tests on 860 sets of remains in fiscal 2003, the officials said.

Unidentified remains from abroad have been interred at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery in Tokyo unless identifying personal effects were found with the bones or if the actual burial conditions did not match descriptions on burial records.

In areas of the former Soviet Union and Mongolia, there were often discrepancies between the conditions on the ground and the records, according to the ministry.

Identification via DNA tests will help more families recover the remains of their relatives, the officials said.

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