A crowd of several hundred — every face covered with a mask — came together Saturday in Tokyo to mark the 75th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.
This year’s ceremony was markedly different than in years past because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of 6,000, the number of guests totaled only 600 — and they sat far apart. A concert replaced the singing of the national anthem, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wore a mask, too.
“Never to repeat the tragedy of war. We will continue to remain committed to this resolute pledge,” Abe said at an official ceremony, Reuters reported.
The prime minister sent a ritual offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, but didn’t visit the memorial, where thousands stood in 95-degree heat for hours to pay their respects to the war dead.
But Yasukuni not only honors war dead, but also 14 Japanese wartime leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal, which angers China and South Korea. Both countries were outraged by Abe’s last visit to the shrine in December 2013.
Koreans mark Aug. 15 as National Liberation Day because of Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. The Chinese resent Japan for occupying parts of their country from 1931 to 1945.
In Seoul, President Moon Jae-in told a crowd that South Korea would willingly discuss any disputes about the war with Japan. South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman pressed Japan to show “deep remorse through action.”
A commentary by China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, warned: “We must learn from history, let history be a warning for the future, and show that we are prepared to fight in the event of a war,” Reuters reported.
Abe maintains future generations shouldn’t have to apologize for Japan’s military past, although Emperor Naruhito expressed “deep remorse” in his remarks.
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