Japanese PM offers no new apology for World War II; neighbors lash out

Updated 9:53 AM EDT, Sat August 15, 2015
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gestures as he answers questions following his war anniversary statement that neighboring nations will scrutinize for signs of sufficient remorse over Tokyo's past militarism at his official residence in Tokyo on August 14, 2015. Abe expressed deep remorse over World War II and said previous national apologies were unshakeable, but emphasized future generations should not have to keep saying sorry.
TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gestures as he answers questions following his war anniversary statement that neighboring nations will scrutinize for signs of sufficient remorse over Tokyo's past militarism at his official residence in Tokyo on August 14, 2015. Abe expressed deep remorse over World War II and said previous national apologies were unshakeable, but emphasized future generations should not have to keep saying sorry.
Now playing
01:39
Japan's Prime Minister has 'grief' over WWII
Richard Overton, 107 years old,  is acknowledged during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Monday.
Getty Images
Richard Overton, 107 years old, is acknowledged during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Monday.
Now playing
01:08
Oldest WWII vet shares secret for longevity
ac nat pkg d day veterans share experiences_00004025.jpg
ac nat pkg d day veterans share experiences_00004025.jpg
Now playing
02:49
2014: WWII vets who fought on D-Day share memories
NS Slug: WV: MARRIED WWII VETERANS TOGETHER SINCE 1946  Synopsis: A West Virginia couple who both served in WWII have been together since 1946.  Keywords: WEST VIRGINIA WWII VETERANS MARRIED
WDTV
NS Slug: WV: MARRIED WWII VETERANS TOGETHER SINCE 1946 Synopsis: A West Virginia couple who both served in WWII have been together since 1946. Keywords: WEST VIRGINIA WWII VETERANS MARRIED
Now playing
00:53
These WWII vets have been married for 72 years
Project recover
Now playing
01:59
See shipwreck found after 75 years
The USS Juneau In New York Harbor, 11 February 1942.
Courtesy the U.S. National Archives.
The USS Juneau In New York Harbor, 11 February 1942.
Now playing
00:58
Wreck of sunken US WWII warship discovered
USS LEXINGTON WRECKAGE FOUND OFF AUSTRALIA'S COAST -
YOUTBE/THE SEA LAD
USS LEXINGTON WRECKAGE FOUND OFF AUSTRALIA'S COAST -
Now playing
00:52
Expedition led by billionaire finds WWII ship
Machine gun on the USS Ward
Photo courtesy of Paul G. Allen
Machine gun on the USS Ward
Now playing
01:12
US ship that fired first WWII shots found
Dieter Schwetzler (R) and Rene Bennert (L) of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Division pose next to the World War II bomb they defused in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on September 03, 2017. 
More than 60,000 people was evacuated from the center of Frankfurt on Sunday after a 1.4-ton World War II bomb (HC 4000 air mine) was discovered on a construction site close to the Goethe University Frankfurt compound last Tuesday.  / AFP PHOTO / Thomas Lohnes        (Photo credit should read THOMAS LOHNES/AFP/Getty Images)
THOMAS LOHNES/AFP/Getty Images
Dieter Schwetzler (R) and Rene Bennert (L) of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Division pose next to the World War II bomb they defused in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on September 03, 2017. More than 60,000 people was evacuated from the center of Frankfurt on Sunday after a 1.4-ton World War II bomb (HC 4000 air mine) was discovered on a construction site close to the Goethe University Frankfurt compound last Tuesday. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas Lohnes (Photo credit should read THOMAS LOHNES/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:48
Massive WWII bomb successfully deactivated
uss indianapolis found cabrera segment nr_00002111.jpg
Naval History and Heritage Command
uss indianapolis found cabrera segment nr_00002111.jpg
Now playing
01:10
USS Indianapolis wreckage found after 72 years
Now playing
01:46
WWII anti-racism film goes viral after rally
Auschwitz Museum
Now playing
00:46
Treasures found in Auschwitz mug
The discovery of an unexploded World War II bomb has brought a bustling area of east London to a standstill and forced scores of people from their homes. The 250-kilogram (550-pound) device has lain undisturbed for the past 70 years but was uncovered Monday afternoon by contractors working at a construction site on Temple Street in Bethnal Green.
From British Ministry of Defence
The discovery of an unexploded World War II bomb has brought a bustling area of east London to a standstill and forced scores of people from their homes. The 250-kilogram (550-pound) device has lain undisturbed for the past 70 years but was uncovered Monday afternoon by contractors working at a construction site on Temple Street in Bethnal Green.
Now playing
01:31
Unexploded 500-pound WWII bomb found in London
ww2 shipwreck watson pkg_00024014.jpg
ww2 shipwreck watson pkg_00024014.jpg
Now playing
03:17
WWII shipwrecks go missing
drive WWII era tanks Texas lcrook nccorig_00000229.jpg
drive WWII era tanks Texas lcrook nccorig_00000229.jpg
Now playing
01:51
You, too, can drive a WWII-era tank in Texas
japan hiroshima survivor watson pkg_00024501.jpg
japan hiroshima survivor watson pkg_00024501.jpg
Now playing
02:58
Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor shares story of survival

Story highlights

Future Japanese generations should not have to keep apologizing, prime minister says

North Korea says his words are a "an unpardonable mockery"

CNN —  

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday expressed “profound grief” for the millions killed in World War II and remorse for his country’s participation, but said that future Japanese generations shouldn’t need to keep apologizing.

Emperor Akihito led an official memorial ceremony opened by Abe, which included a minute of silence.

The prime minister will also pay tribute with a visit to Chidorigafuchi, a national cemetery and memorial.

Abe said Friday while he was remorseful for his country’s actions in the war, future Japanese generations should not have to keep apologizing.

No new apology

While he gave no new apology during a speech, he acknowledged previous ones, saying Japan must keep resolving to never again use force to settle international disputes.

“Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war,” Abe said, adding the country “engraved in our hearts” the suffering of Japan’s Asian neighbors through its actions, including China, South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines.

He said the country “engraved in our hearts” the suffering of Japan’s Asian neighbors through its deeds, including China, South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines.

But, Abe said, postwar generations now exceed 80% of Japan’s population.

“We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize,” Abe said at his official residence in Tokyo.

“Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.”

Decades of apologies

For decades, Japan has made repeated apologies, with some prime ministers personally expressing regrets for the nation’s aggression in the war. Actions included using women from Korea, China and elsewhere in Asia as “comfort women,” or sex slaves, for the Japanese military.

The lack of an apology on Friday drew some tepid to irritated reactions from Japan’s Asian neighbors, including China, which Japan had invaded and occupied.

The statement “was a diluted one at best, thus marking only a crippled start to build trust among its neighbors,” a column published Friday by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reads.

“Instead of offering an unambiguous apology, Abe’s statement is rife with rhetorical twists … dead giveaways of his deep-rooted historical revisionism, which has haunted Japan’s neighborhood relations,” the Xinhua article says.

03:37 - Source: CNN
Should Abe have apologized for 'comfort women' again?

In South Korea, the spokesman for the country’s ruling party noted that Abe’s statement “did not include a direct apology.”

Neighbors not satisfied

In South Korea, the spokesman for the country’s ruling party noted that Abe’s statement “did not include a direct apology.”

“It’s regrettable that he (Abe) mentioned the comfort women issue in a rather indirect way,” Kim Young-woo said. “Instead of pinpointing his ambiguous words, we’ll continue to urge Japan to show sincere remorse and action for peace.”

Abe hinted at the comfort women issue Friday, saying Japan needed to remember the “women behind the battlefields whose honor and dignity were severely injured.” He said Japan will help make this century one in which “women’s human rights are not infringed upon.”

Japan helped establish the Asian Women’s Fund in 1995, which is supported by government funds and provides assistance to former comfort women. But Tokyo has resisted direct compensation to the victims, prompting activists and former comfort women to say Japanese leaders are avoiding officially acknowledging what happened.

But Tokyo has resisted direct compensation to the victims, prompting some to say Japanese leaders are avoiding officially acknowledging what happened.

Only a few dozen of the women are still alive today.

South Korea’s foreign ministry told CNN the government was reviewing Abe’s statement.

Opinion: Why Abe comes up short on WWII history and contrition

’An unpardonable mockery’

The reaction by North Korea’s government, through its official news outlet KCNA, was more pointed.

“Japan is talking about future and responsibility and contribution in the international community without making an apology,” North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said through KCNA. “It is an unpardonable mockery of the Korean people and an act of deceiving the international community.”

Complicating matters for Japan’s neighbors is the island nation’s apparently shifting military stance.

Japan has had a pacifist stance after the war, deploying troops only in humanitarian roles.

More active role for Japanese troops?

While Abe has distanced Japan from wars of aggression, he has backed legislation that would allow for a more active role for Japanese troops overseas, including involvement in the defense of its allies.

China and South Korea, invoking Japan’s expansionist past, have expressed concern about the legislation.

Abe, 60, became Japan’s first Prime Minister born after the end of World War II when he began a one-year term in 2006. His second stint in the office started in late 2012.

One man’s WWII promise kept after 70 years

CNN’s Junko Ogura, Yoko Wakatsuki and Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.