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Last Updated: Monday, 30 May, 2005, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Japan slows hunt for 'soldiers'
A Japanese television cameraman takes footage outside a hotel in General Santos city in southern Philippines, 28/05/2005
There is intense media interest in the two men
Japan is scaling back its search for two men in the Philippines who are rumoured to be former Japanese soldiers left behind after World War II.

Diplomat Shuhei Ogawa, who has been trying to meet the men in the southern city of General Santos, said he was returning to Manila on Tuesday.

He said the mediator supposed to be setting up the meeting was having difficulties doing so at the moment.

The pair are said to be wary of the large media presence in the area.

Mr Ogawa, a spokesman for the Japanese embassy in Manila, said he would wait for more information in the Philippines capital.

He said that the mediator, a Japanese man living on the southern island of Mindanao, was concerned about the men's health because of the sizeable media contingent in General Santos following the story.

Japan's Kyodo news agency reported on Monday that government sources said the mediator was "not trustworthy".

The story had 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.

Earlier reports said the two men on Mindanao 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.


SEE ALSO:
Diplomats seek 'Japan soldiers'
28 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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