• Kyodo

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The Emperor and Empress arrived in Amsterdam on Tuesday for an official visit marking 400 years of bilateral ties between Japan and the Netherlands.

The Imperial couple are to meet Dutch leaders, including Queen Beatrix, later in the day. They are also scheduled to lay a wreath at the National Monument honoring the victims of World War II.

The Dutch visit is seen as the highlight of the couple’s four-nation European tour.

Japan and the Netherlands, which are celebrating four centuries of ties that started in 1600 when the Dutch ship Liefde ran ashore at Usuki, Oita Prefecture, also continue to be haunted by Japan’s colonization of the Dutch East Indies during World War II.

The late Emperor Showa met strong anti-Japanese sentiment when he visited the Netherlands in 1971.

An estimated 14,000 Dutch soldiers and civilians were held by the Imperial Japanese Army in the region, now Indonesia, during the war. Some of them have filed lawsuits seeking financial compensation over their treatment while in captivity.

The Japanese government claims it settled government-level compensation with the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951.

The Hague-based Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts, which represents the former Dutch prisoners of war and civilian victims of Japanese internment camps, has said its members will carry out demonstrations in a “dignified way” during the imperial couple’s visit.

On May 8, the Emperor said he greatly regrets that Japan went to war with the Netherlands and said he hopes to convey Japan’s wish to promote friendship between the two countries on the basis of their history of exchanges.

He also said prior to their departure from Tokyo’s Haneda airport in Tokyo that he would like to make efforts to foster increased mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and the Netherlands and Sweden.

The Netherlands is the second stop on their European tour, following Switzerland. The Imperial couple will visit Sweden and Finland before returning on June 1.

The Emperor and Empress are expected to visit The Hague, Leiden and Rotterdam during their stay in the Netherlands, which ends Friday.

At Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, the Imperial couple were greeted by Dutch Queen Beatrix and her husband, Prince Claus, in a welcome ceremony.

At the Amsterdam Royal Palace, where the Imperial couple are staying, they are scheduled to meet with officials led by Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, after which they will lay the wreath at the National Monument.

They will then attend a luncheon party with the royal couple at the palace and a reception at the Van Gogh Museum sponsored by the Amsterdam municipal government.

They will also attend a dinner party at the palace, where the Emperor will deliver an address.

During their stay, the Imperial couple will attend various receptions and visit the International Court of Justice, a university and a facility for physically handicapped children, among others.