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International relations

Japanese emperor greets ex-soldiers' families in Vietnam

Imperial couple expresses sympathies on a goodwill tour

Empress Michiko, left and Emperor Akihito meet with Vietnamese family members of former Japanese soldiers.

HANOI -- Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko met Thursday with family members of former Japanese soldiers who stayed in Vietnam after World War II and fought to free the Southeast Asian country from French rule.

The meeting with Nguyen Thi Xuan, the wife of a former soldier, and 15 of the soldiers' children took place at a hotel in the Vietnamese capital as part of a goodwill visit.

"I believe that peace is very important," said the emperor, who wished the family members well. The empress held hands of those gathered and expressed sympathy regarding the difficulties they faced in their lives.

Xuan said she was grateful to the couple for their visit and attention toward the families.

Japan occupied French Indochina -- now Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia -- from 1940 until the end of World War II. Of the nearly 90,000 Japanese soldiers there at the war's close, nearly 800 remained in the country. Of these, around 600 joined such groups as the Vietminh fighting against reoccupation by France, its former colonial master.

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