Japan, US mark 70th year since Battle of Iwo Jima

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan and the United States held a ceremony Saturday to mark the 70th year since the bloody Battle of Iwo Jima near the end of World War II.

Japan sent two cabinet ministers to the annual ceremony for the first time: Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki and Defence Minister Gen Nakatani.

Nakatani held talks with US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on the sidelines of the event, according to Kyodo News.

In one of the fiercest battles fought in the Pacific during WWII, some 22,000 Japanese and 6,800 US soldiers died in just 35 days in 1945 as US Marines captured the island, officially called "Iwo-to" island, 1,250km south of Tokyo.

A picture of US troops raising the Stars and Stripes on the island's highest point, Mount Suribachi, became a symbol of US victory in the war.

Veterans and relatives of those who died in the battle spoke at the ceremony, highlighting the unity of the two nations, Kyodo said.