Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has vowed during a ceremony marking the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II that his country will never go to war again.
In Kishida’s first address since taking office in October, he pledged to Japan “never to repeat again the horrors of war” at a somber ceremony Monday marking the 77th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.
“I will continue to live up to this resolute oath,” said Kishida. “In a world where conflicts still rage, under the banner of proactive pacifism, Japan will do its utmost to work with the international community to resolve the various challenges facing the world.”
In his speech, Kishida highlighted the damage Japan suffered from US nuclear bombing during World War II and said that the prosperity Japan has today is due to the casualties of the war dead.
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The anniversary is traditionally marked by visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates those who died in the service of Japan, including 14 wartime leaders convicted as war criminals. The visits, which often result in disputes, are seen by China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
Although Kishida did not visit the shrine, he reportedly sent a religious ornament as an offering instead, as he did in 2021. Three of his cabinet members, including Economic Security Minister Sanae Takaichi, Disaster Recovery Minister Kenya Akiba and Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura decided to visit the shrine.
“I paid respect to the spirits of those who sacrificed their lives for national politics,” Takaichi reportedly told reporters, while also noting her prayer for the end of the war in Ukraine.
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“In every country, it is natural to show respect to those who have sacrificed their lives for their nation,” Cabinet Chef Hirokazu Matsuno reportedly said in defense of the visits. “There is no change in Japan’s policy of strengthening its ties with its neighbors China and South Korea.”
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However, the shrine visits continue to draw criticism from China and South Korea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wengbin said Japan must “reflect carefully on its history” and earn the trust of its Asian neighbors by acting responsibly.
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“Some Japanese politicians often distort and glorify the history of aggression in various ways, and openly violate the Cairo Declaration and other key legal documents that clearly provide for Taiwan’s return to China,” Wang said.
In South Korea, officials have expressed “deep disappointment” at the shrine visits, which they say embellish Japan’s past invasions.
“The Korean government calls on Japan’s responsible people to face history and show humble reflection and genuine reflection on the past through actions,” a spokesman for South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
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The day also marks Korea’s National Liberation Day, a public holiday observed in both North and South Korea. It annually commemorates Victory Day over Japan, when the US and Soviet Union restored Korea’s independence after 35 years of Japanese rule.
Featured image via Portal