Cabinet resolution to collect remains from inside U.S. bases

June 1, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

At a Cabinet meeting on May 31, the Japanese government prepared a basic plan to promote the collection of remains of war dead and decided to engage in a policy to promote the collection of remains both within Japan and abroad. According to the basic plan, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) will begin a large-scale effort to collect remains in Okinawa, including from caves and from within U.S. bases. This appears to be the first time the MHLW will collect remains from within U.S. bases.

According to the plan, intensive collection of remains will be carried out during a period starting this year and lasting until fiscal 2024. From now until the next year, intensive collection of documents and site surveys will be carried out in public archives around the world, after which the collection of remains will begin. Based on the Cabinet resolution, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Ministry of Defense (MOD), and other government ministries and agencies will also cooperate with the efforts.

The plan stipulates that in the efforts to collect remains, the MHLW’s efforts will fulfill “the government’s important obligation to recover a large number of remains quickly, send them back to Japan, and pass them over to the families of the deceased.” Regarding Okinawa, the plan states that the government will “carry out site surveys and collect remains after acquiring accurate information through document research and cooperation with civic organizations.” The government will conduct site surveys and collect remains from inside U.S. bases after receiving permission from the United States. DNA gathered from the collected remains will be put into a database. Even when no articles are found on the remains, unit records and other documents can in some cases assist in identification. In those cases, families and other relatives will be called upon and DNA tests will be conducted to identify the remains with certainty.

How dedicated is the government?

Battle of Okinawa remains collection volunteer (“Gamafuya”) Takamatsu Gushiken speaks:
I have never heard of a large-scale project to collect remains from within U.S. bases. In that sense, this represents some progress.

However, some aspects remain unclear, such as whether they will also collect remains of civilian residents. They say that they will get permission from the U.S. military, but I wonder how serious the government really is about the plan. This is something the government neglected to do after the war. If there are now laws in place and they plan to proceed based on a Cabinet legislation, I want to see them proceed with consideration toward the deceased and their families. In doing DNA tests, they plan only to test the teeth, but I want to see them test the bones of the hands and feet as well, which are more likely to produce DNA.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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