• Kyodo

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In an unusual move, health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki and defense minister Gen Nakatani plan to attend a joint Japan-U.S. war memorial service March 21 on Iwo Jima, a barren island south of Tokyo that was the scene of a fierce battle in final stages of World War II.

In a meeting of Diet members about collecting the remains of war dead, government officials explained Tuesday they are currently in the process of arranging for the two ministers’ to attend the service, which marks the 70th anniversary since the close of the war.

Although the joint service has been held over 10 times in the past, it is unusual for incumbent Cabinet ministers to attend, according to the Iwo Jima Kyokai association, a grouping of relatives of the Japanese soldiers killed in the battle on the island.

During Tuesday’s meeting, it was announced that U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Adm. Jonathan Greenert of the U.S. Navy will also attend the service.

Ichiro Aisawa, a former vice foreign minister who heads the group of lawmakers, said: “We must make this a grand memorial service.”

According to the health ministry, the U.S. military landed on Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945. The garrison of the former Japanese army on the island resisted the invasion in a fierce battle, but communication from the garrison went silent on March 17.

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