The presidents of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands will visit Palau next month when the Imperial couple travels to a scene of fierce fighting during World War II, the Imperial Household Agency said Wednesday.
The Imperial couple is scheduled to visit Palau on April 8 and 9, where they will console the spirits of Japan’s war dead and seek to build friendship between the nations. According to the itinerary announced Wednesday by the agency, the presidents of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands will also attend services on Peleliu Island for fallen soldiers.
Since ascending to the throne, the Imperial couple have regularly made “visits to console the spirits of the war dead.”
The Emperor and Empress contemplated visiting the three Pacific nations and the Northern Mariana Islands — a U.S. territory — in 2003, but the plan was dropped due to issues regarding accommodation facilities and transportation constraints. Eventually, the Imperial couple visited only Saipan, an island in the Northern Marianas, in 2005. This time, at the invitation of Palau’s government, the presidents of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands also will come to meet the Emperor and Empress.
According to the agency, the Imperial couple will leave Haneda Airport in Tokyo on the morning of April 8 on a private chartered flight. After arriving in Palau that afternoon, they will attend a dinner with the three presidents and their wives. The couple will stay aboard the Japan Coast Guard’s large patrol vessel Akitsushima that night. On the morning of April 9, a helicopter of the Akitsushima will fly the Imperial couple to Peleliu Island, where about 12,000 Japanese and U.S. soldiers died during a fierce battle. The three presidential couples will accompany the Imperial couple as they offer prayers at a Japanese monument and a U.S. monument for the war dead.
Accommodations at sea
This will be the first time the Imperial couple stays aboard a patrol vessel at a visit destination.
“They have a very full schedule during the two days and one night they are in Palau, so we felt this option would allow them to smoothly fit in many events,” an official of the agency said.
After spending the night aboard the Akitsushima, the Imperial couple will directly board a JCG helicopter and be flown to Peleliu Island.
The 6,500-ton Akitsushima is among the largest patrol vessels in the world. About 150 meters long and carrying two helicopters, it was commissioned in November 2013. The Akitsushima has been involved in important missions including antipiracy operations in distant seas, and last year it played a key role in a crackdown on coral poaching by what appeared to be Chinese vessels in the Ogasawara Islands.
According to agency sources, the Imperial couple will stay in the captain’s cabin. The vessel has steep stairs and its rooms are partitioned into many sections, and some rocking is likely while it is moored off the coast, so various adjustments have been made onboard to better accommodate the Imperial couple. (The Yomiuri Shimbun)