Palauan President Tommy Remengesau said Thursday his nation would welcome a possible visit by the Emperor and Empress next year in honor of the more than 10,000 Japanese soldiers who died there during World War II. The South Pacific island nation was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War.
Remengesau met Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace on Wednesday, the second day of his four-day visit to Japan.
“I was very pleased to be able to extend this invitation to them in person, and to hear that (the) Emperor put great value in offering prayers and paying respects to the souls of the fallen soldiers,” the 58-year-old president told The Japan Times in an interview in Tokyo.
The president said if the couple’s visit came about it would happen “in the early part” of 2015, which will mark 70 years since the end of the war.
He added that the Palau government will work with the Japanese government “to make sure that such an opportunity is available for the Imperial family to pay respects and to offer prayers to the souls and condolences.”
“It would be a very big honor for Palau as well as our region, Micronesia,” Remengesau said. He added that it would “cement the very close relationship that Palau and Japan historically share.”
Japan governed Palau from 1920 until the end of World War II in 1945. Imperial troops battled American forces there in the fierce Battle of Peleliu from September to November 1944.
The Imperial Couple visited Saipan in 2005, another island Japan controlled until its defeat in the war, to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.
Remengesau also expressed hopes for greater Japanese help in resolving maritime problems Palau faces such as illegal fishing.
He called on Japan to “make a strong alliance with Palau and showcase the leadership and the partnership” to deal with such issues.
Remengesau had a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the prime minister’s office on Wednesday, in which the two leaders addressed a range of subjects, including global warming. Abe said Japan would continue to help develop infrastructure in Palau.
Palau seeks more investment from Japan, especially in tourism. “Japan is the number one source of tourism to Palau,” he said.
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