Baku, August 15, AZERTAC
Japan marked the 70th anniversary of its surrender in World War II on Saturday, with the emperor and empress, the prime minister, and about 5,000 relatives of the war dead attending a ceremony to mourn those killed, according to Kyodo News.
This year's commemoration comes at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration is seeking to pass security bills to bring about a landmark shift in Japan's defense posture.
In his speech at the ceremony, Abe made no mention of Japan's wartime aggression in Asia for the third consecutive year, while pledging not to repeat the tragedy of war.
"As we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, we pledge ourselves never to repeat the horrors of war, to carve out the future of this country for the sake of the generation which is alive at this moment and for the generations of tomorrow," Abe said at the government-sponsored ceremony at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo.
His speech also came a day after he reiterated previous Japanese government apologies for the nation's wartime actions in a closely watched statement marking the 70th anniversary of the war's end. Abe did not offer an apology himself.
Abe said in the statement that force should never be used again to settle international disputes.
Emperor Akihito also delivered a speech and used the expression "deep remorse" for the first time in his war memorial ceremony address.
"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," he said.
At previous memorial services, including those of the past two years, Abe did not mention remorse for the suffering Japan caused to the people of many countries, particularly in Asia, during the war, as Japanese premiers had done at the annual event since 1994. At the last two ceremonies, he also did not pledge that Japan would never go to war.
The controversial security bills, now under Diet deliberation, would allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of the United States or other friendly nations under armed attack even if Japan itself is not attacked. If enacted, the legislation would be a major shift in Japan's post-World War II exclusively defense-oriented security policy.
Constitutional scholars have criticized the bills as violating the nation's war-renouncing Constitution and many citizens are concerned that the legislation would make it likelier for Japan to be involved in war again.
Following Abe's speech, participants observed a moment of silence at noon for the 2.3 million Japanese military personnel and 800,000 civilians killed in the war, including in the U.S. atomic bombings and air raids on Japanese cities.
The speech by Emperor Akihito, who attended the ceremony with Empress Michiko, was followed by words from the heads of both houses of the Diet, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, and a representative of bereaved families.
Among bereaved families, a group of six boys and girls aged below 18 paid a floral tribute at the memorial as representatives of the younger generation for the first time.
The oldest such family member who attended the ceremony is 100 years old and the youngest 3 years old.