By Jojo Dass

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, ) - The Marianas Visitors Authority is coordinating with its Japan office to obtain more details about a report in Tokyo that Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are planning official visits to the CNMI, the Marshalls, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau from February to early March next year.

Jonas Ogren, MVA managing director, told reporters the agency is trying to verify the report, published last June 26 by one of Japan’s leading newspapers, the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The 129-year-old Yomiuri Shimbun is considered the world’s largest newspaper with a daily circulation of 14 million.

Ogren said MVA would contact Japan’s foreign ministry and the imperial household agency, which, according to the report, are planning a 10-day tour of the CNMI, the Marshalls, the FSM and Palau, "starting around Feb. 27 and ending around March 7."

The Northern Marianas, the Marshalls, the FSM and Palau are former Japanese possessions in the Pacific.

"We are going through our office on Tokyo to find out (more) details," said Ogren, adding that MVA learned about the report on Monday.

If it pushes through, Ogren said the trip would be a "powerful and historic event."

The Japan media report was discussed during yesterday’s meeting between the House Committee on Tourism and leaders of the local tourism industry.

Citing statements by Japanese government officials, Yomiuri Shimbun reported that after visiting Saipan and other destinations, the imperial couple "will tour the Marshall Islands, followed by Micronesia and Palau."

According to the report, the imperial couple "also intends to offer flowers to a memorial for the war dead in Palau."

The Yomiuri Shimbun said the trip would be the first visit by the imperial couple since their tour of four European countries last year.

The trips will also mark the first post-war visit by members of the Japanese imperial family to the islands.

July 2, 2003

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