Japan marks WWII’s end, Kishida doesn’t mention aggression

TOKYO (AP) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida renewed Japan’s non-war pledge Monday in a somber ceremony as his country marked the 77th anniversary of its defeat in World War II, but he did not mention Japanese wartime aggression.

In his first speech as prime minister since taking office in October, Kishida said Japan “will adhere to our resolve never to repeat the tragedy of war.”

Kishida did not mention Japanese aggression in Asia during the first half of the 20th century or casualties in the region. The omission was a precedent set by slain former leader Shinzo Abe, who had pushed to whitewash Japan’s wartime brutality.

Kishida focused largely on the damage Japan suffered on its soil: the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the massive bombing of all of Japan, and the bloody land battle at Okinawa. He said the peace and prosperity the country enjoys today is built on the suffering and sacrifices of those who died in war.

Beginning in 2013, Abe stopped acknowledging Japan’s wartime hostilities or apologizing in his August 15 speeches, ending a tradition that began in 1995.

Emperor Naruhito repeated his “deep remorse” for Japan’s wartime actions in a nuanced phrase in his speech, like his father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, who dedicated his career to repairing a war fought in the name of the emperor of the war, Hirohito, the grandfather of the current emperor.

About 900 participants observed a minute’s silence at noon during the ceremony held at the Budokan arena. The crowd was reduced from about 5,000 before the pandemic, participants were asked to wear masks and the national anthem was not played.

While Kishida stayed away from praying at Yasukuni Shrine on Monday and sent a religious trinket, three of his cabinet members visited: Economic Security Minister Sanae Takaichi and Disaster Reconstruction Minister Kenya Akiba on Monday, and Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura on Saturday.

“I paid tribute to the spirits of those who sacrificed their lives for national politics,” Takaichi told reporters, adding that he also prayed for no more war deaths in Ukraine.

Victims of Japanese actions during the first half of the 20th century, especially China and the Koreas, see the shrine as a symbol of Japanese militarism because it honors convicted war criminals among the estimated 2.5 million war dead.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Sunday after Nishimura’s visit criticized it as “the Japanese government’s wrong attitude towards historical issues”.

Wang urged Japan to “deeply reflect on its history of aggression, properly deal with relevant issues with a sense of responsibility, and win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community at large through concrete actions.”

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