Japan is still waiting for World War II soldiers

Japanese officials have yet to meet and confirm the identities of two men in the Philippines reported to be former &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2002/11/12/39399_.html ' target=_blank>Japanese Imperial Army soldiers in hiding since the end of World War II, according to a Japanese embassy spokesman.

"We haven`t met yet with them. We haven`t confirmed anything yet," Shuhei Ogawa, a spokesman for the Japanese Embassy in Manila, said in a telephone interview. "We are talking with a mediator and working on a schedule."

Ogawa spoke to Bloomberg News from the city of General Santos on the southern island of Mindanao, 600 miles (965 kilometers) south of Manila, where Japanese officials have gone to interview the men. The men, both in their 80s and living on the island, have asked to return to Japan, reports Bloomberg.

Japanese diplomats had expected to meet the men on Friday but were unable to contact the mediator. They say they are not yet convinced the story is true.

But Japanese media have reported that the mens` names - given as Yoshio Yamakawa, 87, and Tsuzuki Nakauchi, 85, - appeared in official records as being in an imperial army unit that was posted to Mindanao near the end of the war.

The reports said they had become separated from their unit and had settled with tribal communities in the mountains - which are now infested with communist and &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/mailbox/22/98/386/14156_Beslan.html ' target=_blank>Muslim rebels - afraid they would face a court-martial if they returned to Japan.

The Philippines, invaded by Japan in 1941, was the scene of heavy fighting at the end of the war as Japanese soldiers fiercely loyal to the emperor fought U.S. troops across the sprawling country, which has thousands of remote islands.

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