Hundreds Of Palauans Welcome Japanese Emperor,

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Empress
Royal couple to pay tribute to those killed in WWII

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 10, 2015) – Hundreds of Palauans have welcomed Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on their first visit to the Pacific nation to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The royal couple were greeted by Palau's president Tommy Remengesau and his wife at the airport on Wednesday evening before visiting a cultural centre in the capital Koror.

They also met with the presidents and the first ladies of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Marshall Islands.

Local journalist Bernadette Carreon said the streets of Airai and Koror were filled with hundreds of people, including children, hoping to catch a glimpse of the royal couple.

"The well-wishers lined up the streets waving Palaun and Japanese flags," she told Pacific Beat.

"While they were driving by the capital, the couple rolled down their windows and waved to the crowd which caused happiness and elation from Palauans."

Palau, a former colony of Japan, is the site of one of World War II's fiercest battles in the Pacific.

Some 10,000 Japanese solders were killed during a two-month fight in 1944 on Palau's Peleliu island, along with 1,700 Americans.

Emperor Akihito said he and the Empress were in Palau to pay tribute to those who died in the war.

"In this year to mark the milestone anniversary, we are visiting Palau as we think of a number of people who perished in the battles," the 81-year-old emperor said.

"We must never forget that the beautiful Pacific islands experienced such a sad history."

The couple visited a Japanese-built memorial in Peleliu on Thursday and met with veterans and local residents.

They also offered flowers at a monument for US troops who died during the Peleliu battle.

The two-day trip comes 10 years after Emperor Akihito visited Saipan to pay respects to war dead, the only other time he has visited a former colony to do so.

Japan has made a number of apologies for its conduct up to and during WWII, including a key 1995 statement of "deep remorse" for the "colonial rule and aggression" visited on the people of Asia.

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