Akihito said he hoped Japan will move forward to play a friendship role with its Asian neighbours as well as the rest of the world. His comment, made at a customary news conference last week, was released Tuesday.

"I ardently hope that Japan will be able to go forward in the world as a stable, peaceful and sound nation, in mutual support not only with neighbouring countries but with as many of the world's countries as possible," Akihito said.

Akihito is to visit Palau, one of harsh battlefields in the Pacific during World War II, next year to mourn for the war-dead for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

His commitment to peace as the son of Emperor Hirohito, in whose name Japan waged war, is often highlighted at a time Japan's right-wing government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to acquire a greater military role.

Thousands of well-wishers cheered at the palace Tuesday, a national holiday in Japan, as Akihito appeared on a balcony to greet them on his birthday.

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