TOKYO -- Japan will approve a U.S. request to stage military landing drills on Iwo Jima, where more than 25,000 American and Japanese died in one of the fiercest World War II battles in the Pacific, government officials said today.
They said U.S. forces in Japan made an official request for permission to use two landing sites and the only airfield on the island about 700 miles south of Tokyo.
According to U.S. plans, about 800 marines based on Okinawa, will stage landing drills on Iwo Jima, May 4-6 as part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet exercise.
The Tokyo metropolitan government, which administers Iwo Jima, has objected to the exercise and urged the government of Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki to give careful consideration in studying the request.
Tokyo officials said many former residents wish to return to the island and that most of the remains of more than 20,000 Japanese killed on the island have yet to be recovered.
Most of the islanders were forced to leave their homes during the last stages of World War II.
The island was captured by U.S. forces under the command of Adm. Chester Nimitz after a month of fierce fighting which began Feb. 19, 1945, with a landing by U.S. marines. Some 4,590 Americans died in the battle.
Officials said the U.S. request was sent to the U.S.-Japan joint commission set up under the bilateral security treaty. They said the cabinet will approve the request after the commission has taken action on it.