Emperor Akihito expresses ‘deep remorse’ over war
Japan’s leader sends a ritual offering to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine but stays away in deference to ties with South Korea and China
Tokyo — Emperor Akihito, in his last appearance as reigning monarch at an annual ceremony marking Japan’s World War 2 surrender, expressed "deep remorse" on Wednesday over the conflict, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed never to repeat the horror of war.
Early in the day, Abe sent a ritual offering to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine for Japan’s war dead but did not visit out of apparent consideration for ties with South Korea and China.
Past visits by Japanese leaders to the shrine have outraged China and South Korea because it honours 14 Japanese wartime leaders convicted as war criminals by an allied tribunal, along with war dead.
China’s relations with Japan have long been haunted by what Beijing sees as Tokyo’s failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China before and during World War 2, although ties have thawed recently. Japan occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945.
A silver-haired Akihito, 84, who will abdicate next year, spoke at the memorial for war dead after a moment of silence.
I will humbly face the past and resolutely uphold this promiseShinzo Abe
"Thinking of the peaceful times that have extended for many years after the war, reflecting on our past and with a feeling of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated," said Akihito. He has carved out a role as a symbol of peace and democracy during his three decades on the throne.
His remarks on Wednesday echoed those he first spoke on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, which were seen by many liberals and moderate conservatives as a subtle rebuke to Abe, who has said future generations should not have to keep apologising for the conflict.
"I will humbly face the past and resolutely uphold this promise," the prime minister said on Wednesday.
Separately, about 50 conservative Japanese legislators, including Shinjiro Koizumi, who is often spoken of as a future premier, paid their respects at the Yasukuni Shrine.
In Beijing, the foreign ministry said Yasukuni "enshrines class A war criminals who were directly responsible for the war of aggression. We firmly oppose the wrong practices of the Japanese side."
South Korea’s foreign ministry expressed "deep regret" over Abe’s sending of an offering to the shrine. "Our government urges Japan’s political leaders to show a serious introspection and sincere attitude of self-reflection".
Separately, a group of about 50 conservative Japanese legislators including Shinjiro Koizumi, the popular son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, who is often spoken of as a future premier, paid their respects at the Yasukuni Shrine.