A member of Japan's royal family privately apologized to China's president in 1998 over Japan's brutal wartime occupation of the country, a report said yesterday.
Official Chinese documents cited by Jiji Press quoted Prince Mikasa, brother of wartime emperor Hirohito, as making the apology to former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (
"My conscience pricks me even now. I would like to apologize to the Chinese people," the prince reportedly said in November 1998.
China has regularly accused Japan of failing to atone for the occupation, which continues to stir strong resentment.
Japan disappointed Jiang during the 1998 summit by refusing to use the word "apology" in a joint declaration, although then prime minister Keizo Obuchi apologized verbally.
Japan had one month earlier expressed a "heartfelt apology" in a joint declaration with visiting South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, a former dissident who later won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Japan's ties with China and South Korea have been badly strained over current Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a Tokyo war shrine which honors convicted war criminals among 2.5 million war dead.