TOKYO: Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II Saturday under criticism from China and South Korea, which said nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe failed to properly apologize for Tokyo’s past aggression.
Further straining relations, a trio of cabinet ministers visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine — which neighboring countries see as a symbol of Tokyo’s militarist past — prompting China to voice its “strong dissatisfaction.”
The memorial services marking the day Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945 come after Abe on Friday delivered a closely watched speech that expressed regret — but also said future generations need not apologize for Japan’s war record.
His remarks were welcomed by the US but blasted by China as a non-apology, while Pyongyang derided it as “an unpardonable mockery of the Korean people.”
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said his remarks “left much to be desired” and stressed the need for Japan to resolve the long-simmering issue of Asian women forced to work as sex slaves in Japanese military brothels.
However the Philippines, another wartime foe, said it had rebuilt a “strong friendship” with Tokyo.
Britain applauded the statement, while Australian leader Tony Abbott said Abe’s remarks “should make it easier for other countries to accept Japan’s commitment to a better future for all.”
In a speech for Saturday’s war commemorations, Emperor Akihito said he felt “profound remorse” over a war Tokyo fought in the name of his father Hirohito.
Some Japanese media said it was the first time the 81-year-old had used those words at the annual memorial.
Earlier about 60 politicians, including Sanae Takaichi, minister for internal affairs, entered the gates of Yasukuni.
The shrine is dedicated to millions of Japanese who died in conflicts — but also includes more than a dozen war criminals’ names on its honor list and a museum that portrays Japan as a victim of US aggression.
It makes scant reference to the brutality of invading Imperial troops when they stormed across Asia — especially China and Korea — in the 20th century.