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Japan expresses remorse on WWII surrender day

Posted August 15, 2007 21:29:00

Visitors release doves at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on the 62nd anniversary of Japan surrendering in World War II.

Visitors release doves at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on the 62nd anniversary of Japan surrendering in World War II. (Reuters: Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Japan expressed remorse for past atrocities on the anniversary of its World War II surrender as top leaders steered clear of a shrine at the heart of friction with neighbouring countries.

Sixty-two years after Japan capitulated in the deadliest conflict in history, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged that his country would never return to war.

Japan "caused tremendous damage and suffering to many countries, especially in Asian nations," the conservative leader said, using identical language to previous statements by Japanese leaders.

"Representing the people of Japan, I with deep remorse offer my condolences to the people victimised," Mr Abe told an audience of nearly 6,000 people, including Emperor Akihito.

Emperor Akihito's father 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 obliterated by US nuclear bombs.

Passions about the war still run high in east Asia, with many Chinese and Koreans resentful over Japanese atrocities on their soil. Koreans celebrated "Liberation Day".

In South Korea's capital Seoul, hundreds rallied outside the Japanese embassy. Four Koreans wearing traditional robes kicked a protester who acted the role of a Japanese emperor bowing to a Korean flag.

Some 20 activists also marched to the Japanese consulate in Hong Kong, although they called off a plan to land a boat on disputed islands, citing bad weather.

Mr Abe, the grandson of a WWII cabinet minister, is known for his conservative views on history and speaks sparingly about Japan's past wrongdoing.

Also, Mr Abe stayed away from the Yasukuni shrine, which honours war dead and war criminals alike and has been a source of constant friction with neighbouring countries.

Last year, Junichiro Koizumi became the first sitting prime minister in 21 years to visit the sprawling Shinto shrine in central Tokyo on the sensitive surrender anniversary, setting off protests by China and South Korea.

Mr Koizumi, who handed power to Mr Abe last September but remains widely popular, went again this year. Passers-by cheered as Mr Koizumi, dressed in a suit and tie, silently prayed in the shrine's inner sanctum in the early morning.

Seizo Noguchi, an 87-year-old navy veteran who said he prays at Yasukuni every August 15, wished Mr Abe had come to the shrine but understood he "faces opposition from the outside."

"But I'm sure that in his heart he would like to visit the shrine and that's enough for me," said Mr Noguchi, wearing a necktie and sailor's hat with images of a battleship.

Forty-six lawmakers paid a group pilgrimage. But only one member of the cabinet visited the Yasukuni shrine - Sanae Takaichi, the minister in charge of food safety and gender equality.

Mr Takaichi says she came in an individual capacity, telling reporters: "I don't want to benefit the forces who are trying to make a diplomatic issue out of this".


Tags: community-and-society, history, world-politics, world-war-2, japan