Japan's new emperor speaks of 'deep remorse' in 1st speech marking WWII

Tokyo (AFP) –


Japan's new emperor on Thursday spoke of "deep remorse" over the country's wartime past, in his first speech to mark the end of World War II since his enthronement in May.

Emperor Naruhito's comments were being monitored in Tokyo and throughout Asia for any change in tone but he closely echoed the language employed by his father Akihito.

"Looking back on the long peaceful years after the war, reflecting on our past, and bearing in mind the feeling of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the devastation of war will never be repeated," the 59-year-old Naruhito said.

Akihito was born in 1933 just as Japan was embarking on its militaristic sweep across Asia, and listened in tears as an 11-year-old as his father Hirohito announced Japan's surrender.

In contrast, Naruhito was born well after the war and has spoken of the need to "correctly" remember World War II, without downplaying Japan's early 20th-century militarism.

"During the 74 years since the end of the war, the peace and prosperity of our country today has been built through the tireless efforts of the people.

"Yet when I think of their past full of suffering, I am truly overcome with deep emotion," Naruhito told the solemn ceremony.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also spoke at the commemorative event, offered his "heartfelt respect and gratitude" to Japan's war dead.

The conservative prime minister also did not deviate from the script, as tensions with South Korea over Japanese wartime history spill into the trade relationship between the two US allies.

"We will never again repeat the devastation of war," Abe said, repeating the phrase used in past addresses.

"This pledge has never changed and will never change" in the new era under Emperor Naruhito, Abe vowed.