Japan’s emperor will make a historic trip to the Philippines later this month, Philippine officials confirmed Tuesday.
Japanese Emperor Akihito and his wife Empress Michiko will make a state visit to the Philippines from 26 to 30 January, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement. The trip – the first official visit by a Japanese emperor to the Southeast Asian state – comes as the two countries commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations following the end of World War II.
During the war, the Philippines, then a U.S. colony, was occupied by Japan in 1942 before the country was finally liberated with American assistance in 1945, during which between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Filipinos died. In the decades that followed, Japan and the Philippines have gradually forged a strong bilateral relationship, with ties warming appreciably in 1977 when former Japanese prime minister Takeo Fukuda delivered his famous “Fukuda Doctrine” speech in Manila which heralded Tokyo’s new approach to Southeast Asia (See: “Japan’s ASEAN Charm Offensive”). Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the two strategic partners have been strengthening the defense dimension of their relationship as well amid growing anxiety about Chinese actions in the East China Sea and the South China Sea (See: “Japan, Philippines Declare Strengthened Strategic Partnership”).
During their historic visit later this month, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will attend events in Manila on January 27 and 28. This will include a welcoming ceremony and banquet at the presidential palace in Manila which will be attended by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III as well as a meeting with Japanese citizens living in the Philippines. They will then visit Caliraya and Los Baños in Laguna on January 29. Reports suggest that they will also visit memorial sites of Filipino and Japanese veterans before returning back to Japan on January 30.
The last time the imperial couple visited the Philippines was in 1962 when they were crown prince and princess.
“Their Majesties’ State Visit is a major highlight and fitting start to the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations of the Philippines and Japan in 2015,” Coloma, the communications secretary, said in a statement.
As I noted in an earlier piece, several events are being planned in line with the anniversary this year, including a visit by Japan’s defense minister Gen Nakatani to strengthen defense relations which could take place as early as April (See: “Japan’s Defense Minister to Visit Philippines to Boost Security Ties”).