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Japan must remember Philippines war victims - Akihito

Japan's emperor has said his nation must remember the tremendous loss of life in the Philippines during the Second World War as he and his wife left for a four-day visit to the country.

"Many Filipinos, Americans and Japanese lost their lives in the Philippines during the war," Akihito said in a short statement before departing from Tokyo with Empress Michiko.

"Especially in the battle in Manila, a tremendously large number of innocent Filipino civilians were victims. Upon making this visit, we need to bear this in mind at all times."

Japan occupied the Philippines during the war and the 1945 battle for Manila between the Japanese and US and Philippine forces levelled the capital.

The 82-year-old emperor will pay his respects at memorials for both the Philippine and Japanese war dead.

Japan-Philippines relations have improved dramatically in the 70 years since the war. Japan has become a major aid donor to the Philippines and the countries are deepening security ties in the face of China's military rise.

The emperor's trip follows visits to the Second World War battle sites of Palau last year and Saipan in 2005. He also prayed for Japanese and US war-dead in Iwo Jima in 1994.

Akihito is the son of former emperor Hirohito, under whose name Japan waged the Second World War. Akihito was 11 when the war ended.

His role is symbolic and he holds no political power. He is relatively popular with the Japanese public.

Michiko was the first commoner to marry into the Japanese royal family.

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