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Japan Marks WWII Defeat, Koizumi Apologizes Again

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi marked the 60th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War Two on Monday with an apology for suffering caused by Japanese military aggression and pledged that Tokyo would never again go to war.



Sixty years after Emperor Hirohito exhorted his subjects to "bear the unbearable" and accept defeat, memories of the war that killed millions in Asia bedevil ties between Japan and its neighbors, particularly China, North and South Korea.


"Japan caused huge damage and suffering to many countries, especially the people of Asia, with its colonization and aggression," Koizumi said in a statement.


"Humbly accepting this fact of history, we again express our deep remorse and heartfelt apology and offer our condolences to the victims of the war at home and abroad," he said, adding that he wanted to build relations of trust with other Asian nations.


Koizumi later offered condolences for Japan's more than three million war dead at a secular memorial service also attended by Emperor Akihito, the son of Hirohito, and Empress Michiko.


In a nod to the emotive nature of the August 15 date, Koizumi was expected to refrain from visiting Yasukuni shrine, where convicted war criminals are honored with Japan's 2.5 million military dead from all wars since the late 1800s.


Koizumi has made annual visits to the shrine since taking office in 2001, but never on the anniversary of the war's end.


Ruling party executive Shinzo Abe, often cited as a candidate to succeed Koizumi, joined almost 50 other lawmakers in visiting the shrine on Monday. Environment Minister Yuriko Koike and Health Minister Hidehisa Otsuji were set to go later in the day.


The pilgrimages were certain to anger China and South Korea where many feel Japan has not owned up to its wartime atrocities.


"Koizumi stubbornly persists in his efforts to please Japan's right-wingers, who insist on the belief that sweeping the dirt under the carpet is the only action they need to take," said an editorial in the China Daily.


"Actions speak louder than words…. His words appeared faint and his sincerity is also in doubt," said the editorial, referring to previous apologies by Koizumi.


Mourning the dead


Opinion polls show the Japanese public is divided on whether Koizumi should keep visiting Yasukuni, seen by some as a solemn memorial to those who died for their country.


Koizumi, who says he visits Yasukuni to mourn the war dead and pray for peace, last visited the shrine on January 1, 2004.


Children, students and adults mingled with elderly, dark-suited veterans at the massive Yasukuni complex on a hot morning as police stood by, ready for possible clashes between fatigue-clad right-wing groups and anti-Yasukuni demonstrators.


"As a national leader, he should come to pray for peace and honor the dead as they do in all civilized countries," said Masakazu Aihara, 64, a retired trading firm executive, echoing the views of others among the thousands at the shrine who said that honoring the dead did not imply a revival of militarism.


Some Japanese also think the time to apologize is over and think Tokyo should not cave in to Chinese criticism.


"The problem isn't China, it's Japan. If we got our act together China wouldn't be able to say anything," said Hiroshi Sato, 83, who fought in Burma, now Myanmar, in 1944 against the British and took eight bullets before being sent home.


For 16-year-old student Shotaro Ottata, wearing a rising sun headband, the issue was straightforward. "Because my grandfather fought, we have what we have now. I come every year to give thanks," he said, though noting his mother was opposed.


"She says this place beautifies the war."


A pilgrimage to Yasukuni by Koizumi could also spark a fierce debate among Japanese ahead of a September 11 election that Koizumi has said he wants to make a referendum on reform.


The domestic debate over Yasukuni mirrors a lack of consensus among Japanese over how to assess the war.


Forty-three percent of respondents to a weekend survey by Mainichi newspaper said Japan's war against China and the US was wrong, while 29 percent said it was unavoidable. Another 26 percent were undecided and 2 percent gave no reply.


Three-fourths said there has not been enough debate on responsibility for the conflict in Japan after the war.


(Chinadaily.com.cn via agencies, August 15, 2005)

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