Asia remembered the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II yesterday with calls not to forget the heavy price paid by many to defeat Japanese aggression.
And as Japan again apologized to its neighbors for wartime brutality, veterans recalled the brutal conditions suffered by many in Japanese prisoner of war camps.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard meanwhile struck a more conciliatory note, describing Japan as a "cruel enemy" but also praising the strength of current relations.
Australia, which lost 40,000 people in the war, remembered the anniversary with a service at Canberra's war memorial.
Without naming Japan, Howard said the 20,000 Australians captured in the space of a few weeks in 1942 endured years of brutality. But he also praised the strength of current relations with Japan.
"Our prisoners of war came face to face with barbarity of a kind that younger generations can scarcely imagine," he said.
In a speech at a solemn ceremony in Canberra marking the 60th anniversary of the Japanese surrender, Howard said Australian troops became the first of the allies to defeat Japanese land forces in the Battle of Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea, in a crucial blow to Tokyo.
Japanese marines attacked the Australian base on the eastern tip of Papua New Guinea on August 25, 1942, but were forced to retreat after an 11-day battle.
"Australian troops had, at Milne Bay, inflicted on the Japanese their first undoubted defeat on land," said Howard, quoting British Field Marshal William Slim.
"It was the Australians who first broke the invincibility of the Japanese army," Howard added.
But he also remembered the brutality endured by Australian prisoners of war in Asia.
"In a few weeks in 1942 more than 20,000 Australians passed into captivity only to endure years of forced labor, starvation and brutality at the hands of a cruel enemy," Howard added. "Thousands never saw Australia again."
Thousands of people attended commemorative ceremonies in cities around Australia yesterday. In downtown Sydney, veterans wore their medals as they gathered at a war memorial for a commemorative service before many headed to veteran clubs for lunch and a beer.
Veteran Pat Lee pinned his medals and sergeant's stripes to his suit and topped off his ensemble with a metal combat helmet emblazoned with the words "Lest We Forget" and a pin declaring "G'day mate" to the Sydney ceremony.
Howard and dignitaries including Japan's Ambassador Hideaki Ueda laid wreaths at the cenotaph at the Australian War Memorial in the national capital Canberra to commemorate those who fought and died.
Howard described the war as the triumph of a great moral cause.
"This was a good and just war fought not for conquest but for liberty," Howard said.
Australia provided the allies with one million men and women in uniform despite having a population of only 7 million when war broke out in Europe in 1939, he said.
Over 160 veterans and 100 New Zealand Defence Force personnel paraded through central Wellington yesterday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The majority of veterans were transported along the parade route in open-sided New Zealand Army trucks and some traveled in World War II era military vehicles.
The veterans, 80 of whom just returned from a Veterans Affairs New Zealand-hosted commemorative trip to the Pacific, followed a 100 strong tri-service (Navy, Army and Air Force) New Zealand Defence Force Guard of Honor.
Joint statement against Japan
South and North Korea came together yesterday to celebrate the Liberation Day marking the end of 35 years of Japanese colonial rule.
Thousands of people filled downtown Seoul for ceremonies as a senior North Korean government delegation visited a former Japanese prison where many Koreans were executed during the 1910-1945 colonial rule.
In a statement issued in Seoul to mark the 60th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule, civilian delegations from South and North Korea yesterday condemned Japan's distortion of history.
"The Japanese government should stop distorting history and cooperate in regional efforts to discover historical truths," said the statement.
The statement denounced the recent remarks in some Japanese circles that Japan's aggression of Asian countries and regions was a "liberation war."
This "is completely a distortion of history which goes against the trend of times," said the statement.
The statement also pointed out militarism is resurging in Japan as Japan is continually expanding its armament, strengthening military cooperation with the United States, and causing more conflicts with neighboring countries.
"Japan should give appropriate compensation for victims of its past wrong doings," the statement said.
The joint statement urged Japanese politicians and government officials to stop glorifying its wartime past and apologize for its military aggression.
Representatives of South and North Korea pledged yesterday never to lose their homeland again as they jointly marked the 60th anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule with music and speeches.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun's speech emphasized the need for national reconciliation.
"We are given a new calling in history," Roh told a memorial service. "It is to put an end to a history of division and to open a new era of national integration."
"This will pave the way for overcoming division and unification for peace and prosperity," he told a crowd from a special stage erected on the spot at the end of Seoul's main street where Japan's colonial ruler held office six decades ago.
A delegation of 182 North Korean officials, civilian representatives and athletes flew to Seoul on Saturday.
In a separate vent held at the site of the prison used by colonial Japan to punish independence fighters during its 1910-1945 occupation, civilian representatives from South and North Korea called on Tokyo to renounce militarism and pay compensation for atrocities.
A North Korean delegate, Professor Jong Chi-gon of Pyongyang's Kim Il-sung University, called Japan "an enemy unforgivable."
(China Daily August 16, 2005)