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A DNA test has confirmed that a Japanese man who had stayed on on Sakhalin after the Soviet Union took control of the island at the end of World War II is the elder brother of a Hokkaido woman, the health ministry said Tuesday.

Yoshiteru Nakagawa, 78, who lives in the Republic of Kalmykiya in southern Russia, was confirmed as the brother of Toyoko Chiba, 74, a resident in Bibai, Hokkaido, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

Nakagawa became the first Japanese who stayed on in Russia after the war to have his identity confirmed via DNA tests. Earlier, DNA tests confirmed the identities of two war-displaced Japanese in China.

After undergoing medical checks, Nakagawa will return to Japan, possibly in June, for a short stay, ministry officials said.

Born in Yamagata Prefecture in 1926, Nakagawa and his family moved to Sakhalin, which was then partially a Japanese territory.

The man stayed on Sakhalin with his father even after Japan’s defeat in August 1945. His mother, younger sister and brother moved to Hokkaido about one month after the war’s end.

For decades after that, Nakagawa was unaccounted for.

The ministry started an investigation after Nakagawa inquired through the Japanese Embassy in Moscow in March 2001 for permission to return to Japan temporarily.

The ministry initially had difficulty confirming his identity because his memory was vague and he called himself “Sadao Nakagawa.”

In February, the ministry conducted a DNA test on Nakagawa as documents in its possession suggested he might be Chiba’s brother.

“I’m very happy because I had thought both my father and elder brother were already dead,” Chiba was quoted by the ministry as saying.

Nakagawa served as a fighter pilot in the vicinity of the Philippines and later moved to Sakhalin, according to an interview he gave to Kyodo News in 2002. He was taken prisoner the Soviet Union toward the end of the war but was later given permission to return to Japan. Instead, he chose to stay.

Nakagawa married a Russian woman but subsequently divorced, according to the interview.

Many Japanese who stayed on in the Soviet Union after the end of the war lived on Sakhalin. Between 1989 and the end of last month, 63 of them had returned to Japan permanently, the ministry officials said. The ministry has asked Russia to look into the fate of 54 Japanese whose whereabouts is unknown, they said.

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