Japan’s conservative prime minister broke with two decades of tradition yesterday by omitting any expression of remorse for Tokyo’s past aggression in Asia on the anniversary of its World War II surrender.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s speech avoided words such as “profound remorse” and “sincere mourning” used by his predecessors to acknowledge the suffering caused by the Imperial Japanese Army as it stormed across East Asia — an omission sure to anger China and South Korea.
The hawkish prime minister has previously expressed unease over Japan’s apologies for wartime aggression. The country’s neighbors have also bristled at Abe’s talk of overhauling the pacifist constitution. Seoul and Beijing lashed out yesterday, when nearly 100 Japanese lawmakers, including three Cabinet ministers, visited a controversial war shrine in Tokyo throughout the day.
The leafy site in the heart of the capital is seen overseas as a glorification of Japan’s imperialist past, including a brutal 35-year occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
In response, China summoned Japan’s envoy yesterday, saying it “strongly opposed and strictly condemned” the Yasukuni Shrine visits.
It warned relations had “no future” unless Tokyo owned up to its past.
The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs blasted Tokyo for “turning a blind eye” to its violent aggression during the first half of the 20th century.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said it was “hard to build trust without the willingness to face history and consider the wounds inflicted upon others” as she marked the peninsula’s liberation from Japan.
The comments did not directly address the speech by Japan’s leader, who also dropped a reference in the annual speech to uphold Tokyo’s pledge not to wage war.
Abe stayed away from the shrine yesterday, but he sent a ritual offering via an aide.
“I will never forget the fact that the peace and prosperity we are enjoying now was built based on the sacrifice of your precious lives,” the prime minister said in a reference to the 2.5 million war dead honored at the shrine.
Abe declined to say whether he would visit Yasukuni during his current term.