The remains of 16 people collected in Siberia and brought to Japan in 2014 as those of Japanese soldiers who died while in detention there after World War II have not been identified as Japanese, welfare ministry officials said Monday.
The DNA test results were reported to the ministry by experts at a closed meeting in August last year, but the ministry did not disclose them at the time, the officials said.
The ministry plans to start talks with Russia at an early date on how to handle the remains, including their possible return, the officials said.
The officials said the ministry failed to make a timely disclosure because it was considering how it would discuss the matter with Russia.
In 2014, a group of ministry officials collected the remains of the 16 people from a burial site in eastern Siberia’s Transbaikal region that was believed to hold the remains of Japanese people, according to the ministry.
The teeth of the collected remains were brought to Japan, while the other body parts were burned in Siberia. The ministry officials were not accompanied by any Japanese expert to determine whether the remains are those of Japanese, according to the ministry.
About 55,000 Japanese people are believed to have died in Siberia while in detention after the war. Of them, the remains of about 22,000 people were brought back home.
In 2018, it came to light that experts had found that the remains of people collected in the Philippines as those of Japanese soldiers who died during the war were not identified as those of Japanese.