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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 09:49 GMT
Japan's Emperor turns 70
Emperor Akihito on his 70th birthday
Emperor Akihito contrasted his reign to that of his father
Emperor Akihito of Japan has marked his 70th birthday with comments on Japan's involvement in the Second World War.

He described the conflict as the "most tragic" of experiences, in which "more than three million Japanese people lost their lives", along with " huge numbers" of people in other countries.

"I believe that, with a full understanding of our history, we must strive to bring peace to the whole world and security to all people," Emperor Akihito said in comments which also marked his 15th year on the throne.

He contrasted the peaceful years of his reign with the turbulent early years of the reign of his father, when he said that Japan had been in almost constant conflict with China.

His father Emperor Hirohito was on the Japanese throne from 1926 to 1989.

His reign took in both the Second World War and Japan's reconstruction after its defeat.

Crowds in Imperial Palace
Thousands of well-wishers were greeted by the Emperor
In his birthday comments, Emperor Akihito spoke of his "deep joy" about the way Japan had rebuilt itself.

He also thanked the nation for its support during his recent battle with prostate cancer.

"I consider that diligently performing my official duties is the best way for me to respond to the warm wishes that were sent to me by many people at the time of my illness," he said.

Thousands of well-wishers were allowed into the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to celebrate the Emperor's birthday.

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