27 Jun 2005

Japanese imperial couple make unprecedented visit to Saipan

7:05 am on 27 June 2005

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan today begin an unprecedented two-day visit to the US territory of Saipan to mark the 60th annniversary of the end of the Second World War.

There will be tight security for the couple who are expected to visit 20 sites on the island which was occupied by Japan in 1920.

Some 43,000 Japanese soldiers and 5,000 American soldiers died on Saipan and on nearby Tinian during a three-week battle in 1944.

Our Guam correspondent, Rlene Steffy, says the programme is tight.

"They are going to be visiting the shrines of the war dead in the mid-Pacific area located in Marpi what we are commonly referring to as the Bonsai and Suicide Cliff. These are the areas where many of the Japanese, including women and children, literally threw themselves to their death, with the recognition that Japan was losing the war."