Japanese emperor, empress arrive in Palau to honour war dead

Japanese emperor, empress arrive in Palau to honour war dead
The Emperor and Empress raise their glasses in a banquet with presidential couples from Palau, the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia on Wednesday night on Koror Island in Palau.

The Emperor and Empress arrived in Palau on Wednesday afternoon on a two-day official visit to commemorate those killed in the western Pacific island nation during World War II.

On the first day, the Imperial couple held a meeting with Palauan President Tommy Remengesau and his wife, and were to attend a welcoming banquet. They were then to spend the night aboard a large patrol vessel of the Japan Coast Guard anchored off Koror Island.

Their visit was realised because the couple had a strong desire to visit to mark this year's 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

The couple, aboard a chartered commercial airplane, left Haneda Airport at 11:29 a.m. and arrived at Palau International Airport on the main island of Palau after their 4½-hour flight.

In his remarks at Haneda Airport before the departure, the Emperor referred to the Palauan island of Peleliu, one of their destinations Thursday, where about 12,000 died in a fierce battle between Japanese and US forces in 1944.

"I believe that we must never forget that such beautiful Pacific islands have such a sad history," the Emperor said.

The predeparture ceremony was held at a VIP room of Haneda Airport and attended by Crown Prince Naruhito, Prince Akishino, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other heads of three branches of government.

Speaking about the visit, the Emperor said, "I deeply contemplate the people who went off to the war front to defend their countries and passed away. I will visit [Palau], keeping my thoughts on the number of people who lost their lives in the battles."

The Emperor also referred to when Palau became a Japanese-administered mandatory territory - along with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands - with many Japanese settling in the islands.

The Emperor mentioned that Palauan people have been committed to such continuous work as cleaning a local monument built by bereaved families of the Japanese war dead and gathering their remains, although the islanders suffered the ravages of the war. "I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude" toward the local people, he said.

Representing those seeing off the couple, the prime minister said, "The visit this time is meaningful in honoring the war dead and promoting friendship between Japan and Palau."

On Thursday, the Imperial couple will travel to Peleliu Island, offer flowers at two monuments - one for the Japanese war dead and the other for US forces - and pray for peace. They will fly back to Japan that night.

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