Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday said that Japan's past "heartfelt apologies" for World War II will remain unshakeable in the future, but stopped short of apologizing again in a statement marking the 70th anniversary of the country's surrender.
Abe expressed "profound grief" for all who perished in the war and acknowledged that Japan inflicted "immeasurable damage and suffering" on innocent people.
"On the 70th anniversary of the end 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.
While saying that the Japanese people must squarely face history, he noted that more than 80% of the country's population was born after the war. "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," he said in a 25-minute address delivered live on national television.
The statement was closely watched by Japan's neighbors, 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 seven decades after the war ended on August 15, 1945.
Abe stressed Japan's desire to move forward, while taking "the lessons of history deeply into our hearts."
"History is harsh," he said. "What is done cannot be undone."