• Kyodo News

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Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Thursday the government will set up a special team to search for the remains of Japanese soldiers on the island formerly known as Iwojima, where more than 20,000 Imperial army soldiers died during World War II.

Kan told reporters that the government will launch the team as only about 40 percent of the remains of the Japanese troops have been recovered on the island, now known as Iwoto.

Kan’s remark came as the government held a commemorative ceremony Thursday on the island.

About 50 people attended the ceremony, including 20 who were visiting the island, located in the Pacific about 1,200 km south of Tokyo, to collect the remains of relatives. Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma gave a memorial address and dedicated flowers at a plaque for the war dead.

U.S. forces landed on the island on Feb. 19, 1945. Japan last heard from its unit there on March 17 that year, according to the ministry.

In 1952, Japan began collecting the remains of its 21,900 soldiers and has retrieved the remains of about 8,700 so far.

About 29,000 U.S. troops were killed or wounded during the Battle of Iwojima.

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