Japan has marked 70 years since World War Two ended, with its emperor expressing remorse over the war. A closely-watched speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been criticized by leaders in China and Korea.
In remarks made Saturday on the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender to the Allies announced by his father Hirohito, the 81-year-old emperor Akihito expressed his remorse.
"Recalling the past with profound remorse over the previous war and sincerely hoping that the tragedy of war is never repeated, I, together with people across the nation, express my heartfelt sorrow toward those who fell in battle, and pray for the further development of our country and world peace," the largely symbolic figurehead said in a speech in Tokyo.
South Korea reacts to Abe speech
In her speech on Saturday marking the end of Japan's 35-year colonization of the Korean peninsula, South Korean President Park Guen-hye said Abe's speech did not meet her expectations.
"It is true that the prime minister's statement made (on Friday) left much to be desired." Park said.
She stressed the need for Tokyo to apologize for the girls and women forced to work as sex slaves - so-called "comfort women" - in brothels for Japan's military during the Second World War.
No new apology
In a 25-minute speech which was broadcast live on Friday, the nationalist Abe acknowledged Japan inflicted "immeasurable damage and suffering" on innocent people during its invasion and occupation of East Asia during and before World War Two.
"On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad," Abe said. "I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences."
But Abe also said future generations shouldn't have to keep saying sorry for the country's war record.
Abe did not visit the controversial Yasukuni shrine to Japan's war dead - including convicted war criminals - which is seen in China and South Korea as a symbol of Japanese militarism. He did however send an offering to the shrine. The last time he visited in person was December 2013. The shrine was visited this year by two cabinet ministers.
Abe is due to take part in a ceremony Saturday to commemorate those who perished in the war.
China: Abe 'evasive'
Abe's speech has been criticized in Chinese media. "Japan should have… made (a) sincere apology to the people of victim countries, and made a clean break with the past of militarist aggression, rather than being evasive on this major issue of principle," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement.
North Korea, which shares no diplomatic ties with Japan, condemed Abe's speech, calling it "an attempt of the Japanese rightist conservatives to conceal its crime-woven past."
The United States, which now counts Japan as one of its closest allies in the region, welcomed Abe's remarks.
se/bk (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)