Ja­pan em­peror of­fers ‘re­morse’ on sur­ren­der an­niver­sary


Em­peror Ak­i­hito ex­pressed rare “deep re­morse” over his coun­try’s wartime ac­tions in an ad­dress Satur­day mark­ing the 70th an­niver­sary of Ja­pan’s World War II sur­ren­der, a day af­ter the prime min­is­ter fell short of apol­o­giz­ing in his own words to the vic­tims of Ja­panese ag­gres­sion.

Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, mean­while, stayed away from a con­tentious Ya­sukuni shrine that hon­ors war crim­i­nals among other war dead. He in­stead prayed and laid flow­ers at a nearby na­tional ceme­tery for un­named fallen sol­diers ahead of the an­nual cer­e­mony at Tokyo’s Bu­dokan hall.

That cer­e­mony started with a mo­ment of si­lence at noon to mark the ra­dio an­nounce­ment by Em­peror Hiro­hito, Ak­i­hito’s fa­ther, of Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der on Aug. 15, 1945.

“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,” Ak­i­hito said in his speech. Ja­panese media said it was the first time he had used the words “deep re­morse” in ref­er­ence to the war in his an­nual war- end an­niver­sary speech.

Ak­i­hito also em­pha­sized that Ja­pan’s peace and pros­per­ity stand on “the peo­ple’s tire­less en­deav­ors and their earnest de­sire for peace,” and re­newed his war- re­nounc­ing pledge.

Por­trayed to Con­trast

Even though they are sub­tle and still rather neu­tral, re­marks by the em­peror on Ja­pan’s wartime past in re­cent years have caught at­ten­tion, of­ten por­trayed in the media to con­trast Abe’s na­tion­al­ist and hawk­ish im­age, es­pe­cially as he pushes to give Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary an ex­panded role and change Ja­pan’s paci­fist con­sti­tu­tion.

Abe, who also spoke at the me­mo­rial ser­vice, avoided any ref­er­ence to the dam­age caused by Ja­pan’s ag­gres­sion for the third year in a row since he took of­fice in De­cem­ber 2012.

In­stead, as if talk­ing to the spir­its of the war dead, Abe thanked them for the sac­ri­fice on which he said Ja­pan’s peace and pros­per­ity are built.

Abe did prom­ise, how­ever, to “face the past” and “never to re­peat the calamity of the war.”

On Fri­day, Abe is­sued a closely mon­i­tored state­ment, ac­knowl­edg­ing dam­age and suf­fer­ing on in­no­cent peo­ple but fall­ing short of apol­o­giz­ing in his own words to the vic­tims of Ja­pan’s ag­gres­sion.

His state­ment had been widely an­tic­i­pated be­cause of his past re­marks on his­tor­i­cal is- sues that sug­gested a re­vi­sion­ist stance. He has re­peat­edly said there is no clear def­i­ni­tion of ag­gres­sion, and has de­nied that Ja­pan’s wartime gov­ern­ment co­erced for­eign women to be­come mil­i­tary pros­ti­tutes, cit­ing lack of doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence.

Fri­day’s state­ment drew mixed re­ac­tions from over­seas — in­clud­ing crit­i­cism from main­land China and South Korea, and praise from the United States. South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun- hye said the state­ment “left a lot to be de­sired,” and the main­land called it eva­sive.

On Satur­day, Abe do­nated Shinto- style re­li­gious or­na­ments for the shrine, as he has done since his last visit, in De­cem­ber 2013, which trig­gered up­roar from China and South Korea. How­ever, two of his Cab­i­net min­is­ters prayed at the shrine, and a group of about 60 na­tional law­mak­ers also vis­ited Ya­sukuni on Satur­day.

The law­mak­ers say they merely wanted to pay re­spect to those who sac­ri­ficed their lives for their coun­try. But be­cause Ya­sukuni en­shrines mostly sol­diers, many see it as a sym­bol of Ja­pan’s past mil­i­tarism.

Eight-month-old baby Ne­jmi, from Aleppo, Syria, sleeps on a side­walk near Bas­mane train sta­tion in the coastal city of Izmir, Tur­key, Satur­day, Aug. 15. The mi­grants hope to make it to Greece in boats and even­tu­ally reach wealth­ier Euro­pean coun­tries. Late Fri­day, about 1,900 Syr­i­ans, clasp­ing their pa­pers in their hands, lined up pa­tiently in a fenced-off part of Kos har­bor to get on an Athens-bound ferry. Another 2,000 Syr­i­ans left Kos on Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day, con­sid­er­ably re­duc­ing the over­all num­ber of peo­ple trapped on the is­land.


Em­peror Ak­i­hito, sec­ond right, and Em­press Michiko of­fer silent prayers be­fore an al­tar dur­ing the an­nual me­mo­rial ser­vice for war vic­tims in Tokyo on Satur­day, Aug. 15.

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