Japan Monday marks 60 years since its surrender ended World War II amid tensions with China and other Asian countries fueled by lingering bitterness over the conflict that left more than 50 million people dead.
Japan marked the day with a memorial service in Tokyo attended by Emperor Akihito, relatives of war dead and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who apologized again for Japan's wartime aggression. Some Japanese officials will also visit Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, a site China says glorifies militarism because convicted war criminals are among those it honors.
Koizumi, who has visited Yasukuni annually since becoming prime minister, hasn't said whether he will go there to mark the anniversary. Past trips sparked protests from China, South Korea and other Asian nations that say Japan hasn't atoned for wartime aggression that culminated in atomic bombings of two Japanese cities by the U.S. and devastation of much of its territory, Bloomberg says.
Koizumi pledged Japan would never forget the "terrible lessons" of the war.
In a written statement, the Japanese prime minister said Japan had caused tremendous damage and suffering to Asian countries due to its colonial rule and military aggression, according to Xinhua.
"We humbly accept this kind of historical fact and express anewour deep remorse and sincere apology," he said.
"Japan is resolved to contribute to world peace and prosperity without starting a war again," the prime minister said in the statement, which the Cabinet approved earlier Monday.
"Japan inflicted terrible damage and suffering on other nations, particularly on Asian countries. We recognize these facts and reiterated our commitment to reflect deeply on this and offer our heartfelt apology,'' Koizumi said in a statement today.
Yasukuni, which means “peaceful country'' in Japanese, was founded in 1869 to enshrine the spirits of those who died in battle. Removed from government control after World War II, it honors 2.5 million killed in wars since the 19th Century. Since 1978, those honored there include 14 A-class war criminals, according to the japan-guide.com Web site.
An adjacent museum displays weapons and memorabilia from wars fought by Japan, and screens a film depicting Japan as provoked into war by attacks on its interests in China and by a U.S. oil embargo. It describes the tribunal that convicted the nation's wartime leaders as "one-sided."
Koizumi, the longest-serving Japanese leader in almost two decades, was the first prime minister to visit Yasukuni since 1985. His predecessor, Yoshiro Mori, canceled a planned trip in 2000 and others have stayed away to avoid upsetting the nation's biggest trade partner.