TOKYO, Aug 15 : Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II on Saturday under criticism from China and South Korea, which said nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe failed to properly apologise for Tokyo's past aggression.
In a move likely to further strain relations, a trio of cabinet ministers visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine, which neighbouring countries see as a symbol of Tokyo's militarist past. Memorial services on the day Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945 come after Abe on Friday delivered a closely watched speech that expressed regret -- but also said future generations need not apologise for Japan's war record.
His remarks were welcomed by the US but blasted by China as a non-apology, while Pyongyang derided it as "an unpardonable mockery of the Korean people".
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said his remarks "left much to be desired" and stressed the need for Japan to resolve the long-simmering issue of Asian women forced to work as sex slaves in Japanese military brothels.
Outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul, protesters burned Abe's portrait near a bronze statue representing one of the so-called "comfort women".
However the Philippines, another wartime foe, said it had rebuilt a "strong friendship" with Tokyo.
Britain applauded the statement, while Australian leader Tony Abbott said Abe's remarks "should make it easier for other countries to accept Japan's commitment to a better future for all, and to strengthen their own friendships with Japan".
In a speech for Saturday's war commemorations, Emperor Akihito said he felt "profound remorse" over a war Tokyo fought in the name of his father Hirohito. Some Japanese media said it was the first time the 81-year-old had used those words at the annual memorial.
Earlier about 60 politicians, including Sanae Takaichi, minister for internal affairs and communications, entered the gates of Yasukuni.
The shrine is dedicated to millions of Japanese who died in conflicts -- but also includes more than a dozen war criminals' names on its honour list and a museum that portrays Japan as a victim of US aggression.
It makes scant reference to the brutality of invading Imperial troops when they stormed across Asia -- especially China and Korea -- in the 20th century.
"How we console the souls (of war victims) is a matter for individual countries -- it should not be a diplomatic issue," Takaichi told reporters, responding to questions about possible criticism over her visit.
Other politicians visiting included Haruko Arimura, minister for women's empowerment, and Eriko Yamatani, minister of disaster management, along with thousands of other visitors. ?AFP