Prime Minister Fumio Kishida renewed Japan’s no-war pledge in a solemn ceremony on the 77th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II.

In his first speech since taking office as prime minister in October, Kishida said Japan would “steadfastly maintain its determination not to repeat the tragedy of war.”

He did not mention Japanese aggression in Asia in the first half of the 20th century or casualties in that region. This omission was a precedent set by the assassinated former leader Shinzo Abe, who pushed to cover up Japan’s wartime atrocities.

Kishida mainly focused on the damage Japan suffered, including the United States dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the massive incendiary bombing of all of Japan, and the bloody ground battle in Okinawa.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida lays a wreath at a memorial service marking the 77th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II. (Yuichi Yamazaki/Pool photo via AP)

He said the peace and prosperity the country enjoys today is based on the suffering and sacrifice of those who died in war.

Since 2013, Prime Minister Abe has stopped acknowledging or apologizing for Japan’s wartime hostilities in his Aug. 15 speech, breaking a tradition that began in 1995.

In his speech, Emperor Naruhito echoed in subtle phrases his “deep remorse” for Japan’s wartime actions. His father, Emperor Akihito, devoted his life to making amends for the war fought in the name of the wartime emperor, Hirohito. Grandfather of the current emperor.

At the ceremony held at the Budokan Arena, approximately 900 participants observed a minute of silence at noon.

Crowds were down from around 5,000 before the pandemic, attendees were asked to wear masks and the national anthem was not sung.

Kishida refrained from visiting Yasukuni Shrine on Monday, sending religious ornaments instead, but was visited by three members of his cabinet – Economy and Security Minister Sanae Takaichi and Disaster Reconstruction Minister Kenya Akiba on Monday. , and Minister of International Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura visited on the 20th. Saturday.

“I paid my respects to the souls of those who gave their lives for national policy,” Takaichi told reporters, adding that he prayed that no more people would be killed in action in Ukraine.

Visitors in former Japanese military uniforms enter Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines Japan’s war dead. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno defended visits to Yasukuni Shrine, stating that “it is natural for any country to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for the country,” but that they should pray as “citizens.” decided.

“Japan’s policy of strengthening ties with its neighbors China and South Korea remains unchanged,” Matsuno said.

Victims of Japan’s actions in the first half of the 20th century, especially China and South Korea, view shrines as symbols of Japanese militarism to honor convicted war criminals among the approximately 2.5 million war dead. increase.

The visit sparked criticism from China and South Korea.

South Korea’s foreign ministry expressed “deep disappointment and regret” over the visit to Yasukuni, which it said glorified Japan’s past aggression.

The ministry urged Japanese officials to “face up” with history and demonstrate “sincere” remorse.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin criticized the visit, saying it showed “the Japanese government’s erroneous attitude toward historical issues.”

Wang also called on Japan to “deeply reflect” on its wartime aggression and act responsibly to earn the trust of its Asian neighbors and the wider international community.

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