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Japanese royals visit Canadian parliament

Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were Tuesday welcomed at the Canadian parliament as the two countries hailed their strong ties marking 80 years of diplomatic relations.

"We are honored and privileged to receive His Imperial Majesty Akihito and Her Imperial Majesty Michiko into the Senate of Canada," said Senate speaker Noel Kinsella.

"Japan is an important diplomatic and economic partner. This visit is important to Canada as we continue to advance and promote our diplomatic relations with Japan, as well as our economic and trade relations."

Commons speaker Peter Milliken said he hoped the emperor would take back to Japan "the knowledge that there is a genuine good will towards his country in this land of ours, which, like his own, borders on this great highway of the Pacific Ocean."

The royal couple arrived Friday for their first visit to Canada since Emperor Akihito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989.

During a state dinner in their honor late Monday, Akihito also paid tribute to the ties between the two nations and reminisced about his first visit when he was still crown prince in 1953.

"The 11 days that I spent traveling across your nation as a 19-year-old remain vividly embedded in my mind," he said, adding that he also remembered "the warm welcome extended to me by the people of Canada."

And he harkened back to World War II when, after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese immigrants in Canada were interned and many had their property seized.

"It is all the more regrettable that the relationship that had thus developed between our two countries was disrupted by the Second World War. It saddens me that so many people experienced suffering and difficulties during the war," he said without directly referring to the internments.

"Ever since our diplomatic relations were resumed after the end of the war, our exchanges once again have been enjoying steady development thanks to the wisdom and ceaseless endeavors of the peoples of both nations."

The emperor also expressed his sadness at those killed in peacekeeping missions around the world as he praised Canada's contribution to such forces.

Canada has lost 124 soldiers since 2002 as NATO-led forces battle a growing Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgency in Afghanistan.

The royal couple was to visit Toronto Wednesday, before heading to western British Colombia. They will leave Canada on July 14 for Hawaii.

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Publication:AFP Asian Edition
Date:Jul 7, 2009
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