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Tuesday, 12 May, 1998, 20:05 GMT 21:05 UK
Sympathy - but no apology
Former internees protest outside the Japanese embassy in London
Former internees protest outside the Japanese embassy in London
The Japanese Emperor has expressed sympathy for British victims who suffered during World War II.

Emperor Akihito, who is due in the UK later this month on a state visit, acknowledged that bitter feelings still existed between the two countries.

But he gave no indication of the full apology that survivors of Japan's labour camps have long campaigned for.

Emperor Akihito
Emperor Akihito spoke at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo
Making a rare appearance at a news conference in Tokyo, Emperor Akihito said the two countries should work together to make sure history never repeated itself.

Emperor Akihito said: "I believe what is important is to work to realise such pain from their perspective and I sincerely hope that the Japanese and British people will enhance their friendship based on mutual understanding."

His wife, Empress Michiko, added: "I will keep in mind during my visit people who have painful memories of their relationship with Japan and pray that there will never come a time when such bitter history is repeated."

But the emperor's comments were dismissed by former prisoners of war taking part in a demonstration outside the Japanese Embassy in London.

Joan Goddard
Joan Goddard: "They did dreadful, awful things"
The Japanese authorities hope to avoid further embarrassing protests during the state trip.

Shouting "Akihito, don't come" and carrying banners as they marched, the former detainees pledged to continue their demands for an apology.

"What they did were the most dreadful, awful things imaginable and I cannot understand why they do not want to compensate us," said Joan Goddard.

Another survivor of the labour camps, Murial Parham, said: "We want him to say 'I'm sorry that you had to bow and scrape and you saw torture and terrible things'."

Stephanie Coles
Stephanie Cole: They want a straight-forward apology
The actress Stephanie Cole, who starred in the BBC television serious Tenko, about a women's labour camp in Japan, joined the demonstrators.

"Even now, after so long, they want a really straight-forward apology and some reasonable compensation. Otherwise it's like saying 'well, you went through that but who cares'."

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