Japan will start jointly collecting remains of the war dead with the United States next year mainly in the Pacific area where the two countries fought during World War II, Japanese government sources said Friday.
Tokyo is hoping to accelerate the collection by joining hands with U.S. experts with advanced scientific knowledge in analyzing skeletons, and to strengthen the alliance between the two countries through the joint operation.
The plan may be announced when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama meet in Hawaii on Tuesday to remember those killed in Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the sources said.
“The collection project has to be done under the government’s responsibility but it’s hard to say we’re making progress,” said a source linked to the Prime Minister’s Office, adding that Tokyo has hence decided to draw on U.S. experience and expertise.
Under the joint operation, Japan will cooperate with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, a Hawaii-based agency in the U.S. Defense Department with experience in finding remains of the war dead based on war-related documents and identifying them through DNA tests.
The joint operation will cover former battlefields in the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Iwoto Island, formerly known as Iwo Jima. If the operation goes well, the coverage area may widen, the sources said.
The government has been collecting war remains since fiscal 1952. Japan lost around 2.4 million lives in battlefields outside the nation during the war, of which 1,126,000 remained unaccounted for as of the end of October, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
Washington sounded out Tokyo about cooperating in the collection of war remains around 2014, and Tokyo had been contemplating the offer.
Japan has set the nine years from fiscal 2016 as a period to intensively accelerate efforts to collect the remains of the war dead in accordance with a law enacted in March to promote the task.