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Japanese prime minister expresses ‘profound grief’ for WWII dead

Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP file picture | Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered his condolences to those who perished in WWII

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed “profound grief” on Friday for all who perished in World War II in a closely watched statement marking the 70th anniversary of the country’s surrender.

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Abe acknowledged in the statement delivered live on national television that Japan inflicted “immeasurable damage and suffering” on innocent people in the war.

“On the 70th anniversary of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad. I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences,” Abe said.

Abe mentioned past apologies, but did not give a formal apology himself. He stressed Japan’s desire to move forward, while taking “the lessons of history deeply into our hearts".

Japan must face its history squarely, but its future generations should not have to continue apologising, he said.

“History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone,” he said.

Abe also made an apparent reference to foreign wartime prostitutes for the Japanese army, though he avoided the question of whether the so-called "comfort women" were forced into the work, a hotly disputed issue with South Korea.

"We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured," he said.

The comment failed to satisfy an activist in Taiwan speaking at an event marking an international memorial day for comfort women. "He still refused to recognise that the comfort women system was the persecution of women's human rights," said Huang Shu-ling, president of the Taiwan Women's Rescue Foundation.

The statement was closely watched by Japan’s neighbours, especially South Korea and China. Resentment over invasion, occupation and atrocities by the Japanese Imperial Army before and during the war still bedevils relations between Japan and the East Asian countries decades after the war ended with the Aug. 15, 1945, surrender.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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