Japan voices remorse for World War II
Japan expressed remorse Saturday for its actions in World War II on
the anniversary of its 1945 defeat but two former premiers visited a
controversial war shrine seen as a symbol of its past militarism.
Prime Minister Taro Aso and Emperor Akihito, whose father Hirohito
surrendered exactly 64 years ago, attended a memorial service in Tokyo
and expressed sorrow for the suffering the nation had caused.
"Our nation inflicted significant damage and pain on many countries,
especially on people in Asian countries," Aso said during the nationally
"On behalf of our people, I express deep remorse and humble
condolences for all of the people who fell victim," Aso told the
ceremony attended by 5,000 people, mostly elderly veterans and bereaved
Emperor Akihito said: "I profoundly express my condolences... with my
sincere hope that such war sufferings will never be repeated."
But amid Japan's efforts to own up to its wartime aggression former
prime ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni
shrine, which honours some 2.5 million Japanese war dead including 14
leading war criminals.
Koizumi's 2001-2006 premiership was beset by tensions with China and
South Korea, which accused him of condoning militarism by visiting the
shrine every year.Abe, Koizumi's successor who had avoided the shrine
while he was prime minister, made his second straight annual visit
"Today, I made a visit here to share respect and veneration for
spirits of the war dead," Abe told reporters.
Aso has indicated he will stay away from the shrine, although
consumer affairs minister Seiko Noda was expected to visit.
Last year three ministers, including Noda, visited the shrine.
Ahead of the August 30 national election, some 40 conservative
politicians also made a pilgrimage to the shrine.
Japan's opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama, widely tipped to become the
next prime minister, expressed his condolences for those who lost their
lives in the war, while staying away from the shrine.
"It is our responsibility and duty to establish peace by facing
history so that we will neither forget about the bitter and mindless war
nor repeat the tragedy," Hatoyama said in a statement.
Emperor Hirohito, who was revered as divine and had never spoken to
the public before, went on the radio on August 15, 1945 to announce
Japan had to "bear the unbearable" and surrender as its cities lay in
ruins, two of them struck by US nuclear bombs.
Under bright sunshine Saturday, many Japanese veterans and their
families worshipped at the Yasukuni shrine, where right-wing activists