Em­peror of Ja­pan vis­its for­mer colony Palau on WWII mission

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

Ja­pan’s im­pe­rial cou­ple ar­rived in the Pa­cific is­land na­tion of Palau Wed­nes­day, the site of a fear­some battle with Amer­i­can troops, on a rare over­seas visit re­lated to World War II.

Em­peror Ak­i­hito, the son and heir of Hiro­hito, in whose name Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary fought in the decades up to 1945, was vis­it­ing the for­mer colony of­fi­cially to pay trib­ute to all those who per­ished in the war, 70 years af­ter it ended.

“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,” Ak­i­hito, 81, said be­fore de­part­ing from Tokyo’s Haneda air­port.

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

Ak­i­hito, ac­com­pa­nied by his wife Michiko, will meet Palauan Pres­i­dent Tommy Re­menge­sau later Wed­nes­day, as well as the lead­ers of the Mar­shall Is­lands and Mi­crone­sia, also for­mer colonies of im­pe­rial Ja­pan.

On Thurs­day, they plan to visit Palau’s Peleliu is­land, the site of a par­tic­u­larly bloody battle in WWII as the U.S. swept up through the Pa­cific, cap­tur­ing footholds from which to launch at­tacks on Ja­pan.

The fight over Peleliu cost 10,000 Ja­panese lives and killed 1,700 Amer­i­cans.

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

Ja­pan’s me­dia, which cov­ers royal mat­ters with a deep and un­crit­i­cal rev­er­ence, has been ex­cit­edly re­port­ing the visit for days.

Tele­vi­sion footage has lin­gered on Ja­panese flags adorn­ing the streets and in­ter­views with lo­cals have con­cen­trated on how Tokyo has helped Palau with grants and in­fra­struc­ture.

A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple with Ja­panese her­itage re­main on the is­land, in­clud­ing at least one for­mer pres­i­dent.

The ap­par­ent warmth of the peo­ple and their will­ing­ness to let WWII by­gones be by­gones stands in marked con­trast to the fevered re­la­tions Tokyo has with South Korea and China, which also suf­fered un­der the Ja­panese dur­ing the war, but con­tinue to de­mand pen­i­tence.

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.

But Bei­jing and Seoul con­tinue to call for con­tri­tion, and much at­ten­tion is be­ing fo­cused this year on an ex­pected state­ment by na­tion­al­ist Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe for any sign of back-ped­al­ing on ear­lier procla­ma­tions.

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