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Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo, Japan (Image by Paul Arps; Flickr)

Japan issues controversial WW2 statement of remorse

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as Emperor Akihito have issued statements of remorse for Japanese aggression during WW2 on Saturday, which marked the 70th anniversary of the Allies’ victory over Japan.

However, the speeches did not include a direct apology. Japan’s neighbours feel the statement falls short of sincere regret.

Akihito highlighted the Japanese people’s desire for peace. “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,” the Emperor said in his speech.


Prime Minister Abe visited a memorial for unknown fallen soldiers, before announcing in his address that he felt “utmost grief” over Japan’s actions in the war. He fell short of apologising. Instead Abe said it was time to stop making future generations apologise for the past.

Although his statement was accepted by the US, South Korea and China are not convinced. The lack of a formal apology remains a strong symbol to many who suffered under Tokyo’s colonial rule and occupation pre-1945.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, as well as South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, expressed their regret that Japan had failed to embrace full responsibility for some of the more heinous war crimes.

This includes the contentious practice of keeping women as sex slaves (“comfort women”) for the Japanese Imperial Army.

Japan’s relationship with its WW2 past has remained controversial. In the centre of this controversy is Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, which honours all of Japan’s fallen – including numerous notorious war criminals.

On August 15th, 1945, Emperor Akihito’s father surrendered to the Allied Powers. “VJ Day” is also being commemorated on Saturday in other countries, including in the UK.


Elisabeth Brahier

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