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Japanese Emperor Heads to England

May 25, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ While Queen Elizabeth II prepared a lavish welcome, the anger of British veterans brutally treated by Japanese soldiers in World War II threatened Monday to overshadow a state visit by Japan’s Emperor Akihito.

Just hours before the emperor was due to arrive Monday evening, a Japanese diplomat reiterated that he understood the strength of feeling, but said there was no way, as a nonpolitical monarch, the emperor could apologize.

Veterans’ organizations, their resentment fueled by the sight of dozens of Japanese flags fluttering alongside Britain’s Union Jack on The Mall, the boulevard leading to Buckingham Palace, said at least 1,000 would demonstrate at the official welcome Tuesday - backs turned and whistling.

``It is more than a life time for some of you,″ former prisoner-of-war Arthur Titherington told reporters at a news conference, referring to the end of the war in 1945. ``But we were the victims of a type of person that was brutal in the extreme ... to us it was yesterday.″

Martin Day, lawyer for veterans pressing for compensation, appealed to thousands of younger Britons to join Tuesday’s protest when horse-drawn carriages bearing the emperor and the British monarch bowl along The Mall accompanied by the queen’s Household Cavalry.

The demonstrators plan to whistle an Allied tune, ``Colonel Bogie″ when Akihito, 64, drives past.

Day said Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hasimoto should immediately make a German-style ``abject″ apology over World War II and offer compensation.

``Even today the Japanese government, the Japanese emperor, the Japanese people have found it difficult to accept that what they did in the past was so wrong,″ said Day, who represents the Japanese Labor Camp Survivors’ Association.

Britain’s Foreign Office recalled that the Japanese prime minister had apologized _ he expressed ``deep remorse and heartfelt apology″ about the war _ to Tony Blair when the British prime minister visited Tokyo in January.

Japan’s deputy ambassador, Itaru Umezu, said Akihito and Empress Michiko will take any demonstration ``in their stride.″

``It is a really happy occasion,″ said Umezu said in a BBC radio interview. ``But we are certainly aware there is a PoW issue and we have deep sympathy and respect for the points made by the former PoWs.″

In an unusual move, Buckingham Palace announced last week that the queen will not be embarrassed by any anti-Japanese protests during Akihito’s visit, saying she recognizes the ``depth of feeling.″

Britain’s royal family has long links with the Japanese royals. Queen Victoria sent her son Prince Alfred to Tokyo to pay respects to a news Japanese emperor in 1869.

Akihito, a child when Japanese armies rampaged through Asia, was at Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 and has visited Britain four times since.

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