Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has expressed “profound grief” for all those who died in World War Two, Sky News reports. Mr Abe said Japan must squarely face history but future generations should not have to apologise. In a TV address to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the conflict, he acknowledged Japan inflicted “immeasurable damage and suffering” on innocent people. “On the 70th anniversary of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad,” he said.
“When I squarely contemplate this obvious fact, even now, I find myself speechless and my heart is rent with the utmost grief.” He added: “I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences. History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone.” Mr Abe mentioned past apologies, but did not give a formal apology himself. He stressed Japan’s desire to move forward, while taking “the lessons of history deeply into our hearts”.
The statement was closely watched by Japan’s neighbours, especially South Korea and China. The two countries had made it clear they wanted Mr Abe to stick to 1995’s “heartfelt apology” by then-premier Tomiichi Murayama. On Wednesday an 81-year-old South Korean man set himself alight in protest at Japanese wartime brutality. Mr Abe is seen by critics as a revisionist who wants to play down the dark side of Japan’s wartime past.
Mr Abe’s conservative political allies have urged him to end what they see as a humiliating cycle of apologies that distracts from Japan’s post-war record of peace. “In Japan, the post-war generations now exceed 80% of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologise,” he said.
“Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past.” Resentment over invasion, occupation and atrocities by the Japanese Imperial Army still bedevils relations between Japan and the East Asian countries. VJ Day – Victory over Japan Day – is marked in Australia, New Zealand and the UK on 15 August.
Japan also holds memorial events.