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Page last updated at 07:19 GMT, Saturday, 28 May 2005 08:19 UK

Diplomats seek 'Japan soldiers'

Man reading paper carrying photo of missing Japanese soldier who may be one of the two men
The men are said to have settled down in the area after the war

Japanese diplomats in the Philippines are attempting to meet two men believed to be Japanese soldiers left behind after World War II.

It is thought they became separated from their unit, and settled down in the mountainous interior of the island of Mindanao.

Diplomats made a failed attempt to meet the two men, who are now thought to be well into their 80s, on Friday.

The pair are said to be wary of the large diplomatic and media presence.

The story has led to comparisons with the case of Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who was found in the Philippines jungle in 1974, still carrying a rusty rifle and unaware that the war had ended.

He had to be ordered by his former commanding officer to give himself up.

Mediator

Information about the two men on Mindanao apparently came via a Japanese man in the local timber business, who came across them living in a part of the island controlled by Muslim rebel groups. He has been acting as a mediator.

The mediator said that they had settled down in the area after the war and one had married a local woman, but that in their old age life had become too hard and they now wanted to return home to Japan.

It is believed the men may have been part of the "Panther Division", a Japanese unit cut off as US forces re-occupied the Philippines in 1945.

About 13,000 soldiers in the division died making a desperate but futile defence again the American advance.

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