TOKYO (Web Desk) – Japan marked 70 years on Saturday since the end of World War Two but faced criticism from South Korea and China, which accused it of failing to properly atone for its actions during the war.
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At a memorial service in Tokyo, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Emperor Akihito observed a minute’s silence, the BBC reported.
“Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse over the last war, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated,” Emperor Akihito, 81, said at a memorial service on the anniversary of the day his father, Hirohito, announced Japan’s defeat.
“Together with all of our people, I now pay my heartfelt tribute to all those who lost their lives in the war, both on the battlefields and elsewhere, and pray for world peace and for the continuing development of our country.”
Mr Abe had expressed “utmost grief” on Friday over Japan’s role in war, but said future generations should not have to keep apologizing for the mistakes of the past.
But South Korean President Park Geun-hye said the Japanese premier’s remarks “left much to be desired”.
The legacy of the war still haunts relations with China and South Korea, which suffered under Japan’s sometimes brutal occupation and colonial rule before Tokyo’s defeat in 1945.
Speaking on Saturday at a ceremony in Seoul, Ms Park called on Mr Abe to reiterate Japan’s apologies for abuses during its wartime occupations of neighbouring countries.
“History can never be covered up. History remains alive through its witnesses’ vivid testimony,” she said.
Japan’s surrender to the allies on 15 August 1945 freed the then-unified Korea from 35 years of occupation, leading Koreans to celebrate the date as Liberation Day.
Ms Park also called on Japan to resolve, “at the earliest possible date”, the issue of so-called “comfort women” – Asian women forced to work as sex slaves for the military in Japanese wartime brothels.
Mr Abe stopped short of issuing a fresh apology this year to victims of Japanese aggression, saying that future Japanese generations should not be “predestined to apologise” for their country’s wartime actions.
A spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry said on Saturday that Japan should have made a “sincere apology to the people of victim countries … rather than being evasive on this major issue of principle”.
Speaking at the ceremony in Tokyo, Mr Abe said Japan’s war dead “sacrificed their life for the future and the prosperity of our homeland”.
“Their sacrifice was the foundation of today’s prosperity and we shall never forget their contribution. We always reflect the past and we hate the horror of the war,” he said.
Thousands of South Korean protesters are expected to hold an anti-Japanese rally on Saturday. This past week a Korean protester set fire to himself outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul.
And in North Korea, clocks were set back 30 minutes on Saturday to so-called Pyongyang time to remove the country from a shared timezone established under Japanese colonial rule.
In 1995, then-Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued a landmark apology for Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression”.
His sentiments were repeated 10 years later by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
World War II was deadliest conflict in human history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. Marked by mass deaths of civilians, including the Holocaust, the strategic bombing of industrial and population centres and the two US nuclear attacks on Japan, it resulted in an estimated 50 million to 85 million fatalities.