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WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko plan to visit Pearl Harbor around July, sources close to Japan-U.S. relations said Sunday.

The visit to the scene of Japan’s surprise attack that ushered in the Pacific War would take place on the Imperial Couple’s way back from an official trip to Canada planned for this summer, with the Japanese and U.S. governments working to finalize the schedule, the sources said.

Such an event would symbolize the postwar reconciliation between the two countries as no sitting Japanese prime minister has gone to Pearl Harbor. House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono visited in December.

The Imperial Couple has a track record of making pilgrimages to war-linked places, including Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, and Saipan, a commonwealth territory of the United States, in 2005 for the 60th anniversary.

The Emperor and Empress weighed a visit to Pearl Harbor when they made an official trip to the United States in June 1994 and stayed in Hawaii, but decided against it in light of criticism that it would constitute political exploitation of the Emperor.

The sources said the itinerary is being carefully arranged in consideration of other factors, including the couple’s health.

The trip this summer will be their first overseas since 2007. Under the latest plan, the Emperor and Empress will unofficially stop over in Hawaii. They will primarily interact with local Japanese-American groups and visit Pearl Harbor during a break, the sources said.

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