Japan's emperor visiting the Philippines, a former WWII site

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Japan's Emperor Akihito, second from left, and Empress Michiko walk before boarding their airplane to leave for the Philippines at Haneda international airport in Tokyo

Japan's Emperor Akihito, second from left, and Empress Michiko walk before boarding their airplane to leave for the Philippines at Haneda international airport in Tokyo (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's emperor said Tuesday that his nation must remember the tremendous loss of life in the Philippines during World War II, as he and his wife Empress Michiko embarked for a four-day visit to the Southeast Asian country.

"Many Filipinos, Americans and Japanese lost their lives in the Philippines during the war," Emperor Akihito said in a short statement before departing from Tokyo. "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 World War II. The 1945 battle for Manila between the Japanese and U.S. and Philippine forces leveled the capital city.

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

Japan-Philippines relations have improved dramatically in the seven decades 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 World War II battle sites of Palau last year and Saipan in 2005. He also prayed for Japanese and U.S. war-dead in Iwo Jima in 1994.

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