HANOI – The Japanese Emperor and Empress were officially welcomed at the Vietnamese presidential palace in Hanoi on Wednesday during their first-ever visit to the country, where they will meet with Vietnamese dignitaries and relatives of Japanese soldiers sent to Vietnam during World War II.
“The state visit to Vietnam by the Japanese emperor and empress is an event of symbolic significance, a historic milestone in the friendship and cooperation between the two countries,” Vietnam’s government said in a statement published earlier this week.
Ahead of the welcoming ceremony, the 83-year-old Akihito and his wife Michiko, 82, met with Japanese aid volunteers to Vietnam in a gesture of support for the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, which currently runs more than 100 projects in Vietnam related to health, infrastructure, environment and governance, according to the JICA website.
JICA notes that development aid in the country is geared towards easing the negative effects of rapid economic growth in Vietnam, which has averaged a 6.4-percent rise in GDP since 2000 despite a regional slowdown, according to the World Bank.
Japanese government-funded projects are also geared towards lifting the country’s estimated 30 million people out of poverty and extreme poverty, which JICA says disproportionately plagues ethnic minorities in rural areas.
Akihito and Michiko on Thursday encouraged the volunteers to fulfill their duties to contribute to local development, as cited by the Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper.
The Japanese royal couple was greeted by hundreds of well-wishers upon their arrival Tuesday to Vietnam, an epa journalist reported.
They will stay in the country for the next five days and participate in meetings with dignitaries including President Tran Dai Quang and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, as well as the families of Japanese war veterans who stayed on in the country after being dispatched to fight in World War II.
The royal couple will depart from Vietnam on March 5, with a brief stopover in Bangkok before returning to Tokyo on March 6.