Japan emperor marks Palau war dead

Japan’s Emperor Akihito has visited the Pacific island of Peleliu to commemorate those who died in fierce fighting during World War Two.

Some 10,000 Japanese troops and 1,600 US soldiers died during three months of intense fighting on the island, which is part of the nation of Palau.

In a statement, he said the “tragic history” should not be forgotten.

The visit by the 81-year-old, whose father was Emperor Hirohito, comes 70 years after the war ended.

Ten years ago, he also paid a similar visit to Saipan, another Pacific island – now part of the US – that saw fierce fighting towards the end of the war.

The battle on Peleliu took place between September and November 1944, as US troops sought to capture an airstrip on the island.

“Fierce battles between the United States and Japan took place in this region, including the present Republic of Palau, resulting in the loss of countless lives,” Emperor Akihito said at a banquet on Wednesday.

“We are here in Palau to mourn and pay tribute to all those who lost their lives in World War Two and reflect on the hardships suffered by the bereaved families.”

Emperor Akihito has said on multiple occasions that Japan must learn from its history and never forget what happened.

But his visit comes amid concerns among Japan’s neighbours that its current government, led by nationalist Shinzo Abe, is unrepentant about wartime actions.

Earlier this week, China and South Korea protested over newly approved school textbooks which they said glossed over events such as the Nanjing massacre.

The BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, in Tokyo, says that while the current government might be keen for people to forget the horrors wrought by Japan, in his own subtle way Emperor Akihito is sending a different message.