BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese state media outlets sharply criticised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday for what they said was his refusal to apologise for Japan's war-time actions, but said it would not dramatically affect ties between the two Asian powers.
Abe's speech a day earlier - in which he expressed "deep remorse" over World War II - trod a fine line between regret over Japanese aggression and what his pacificist country had done since the end of the conflict, but was met with scepticism by Japan's neighbours, with whom Tokyo has an uneasy relationship.
Abe's statement was particularly closely watched in China, where memories of Japan's invasion, beginning in the 1930s and lasting until its defeat in 1945, are still a source of anger among the general populace.
The Global Times tabloid, which has close ties to the ruling Communist Party, said Abe's speech was "nothing to be proud of" and that it only met "the minimum demands of China, South Korea and the international community".
"Abe had no intent to make a heartfelt apology," an editorial said.
But the newspaper, which is known for its ardently nationalistic stance, said the remarks would not hurt ties between Asia's two biggest economies.
"The speech will not trigger a worsening of Sino-Japanese ties, nor will it help to significantly improve the relations," it said.
"Abe's speech may only mean a draw in the wrestling match. The future of China-Japan relations remains uncertain." Ties between Beijing and Tokyo have worsened in recent months as they face off over a litany of issues.
They have rowed over a disputed island chain in the East China Sea, and while Beijing has criticised Tokyo for playing down its war record and trying to expand its present-day military, Japan has voiced unease over China's own growing military might.
The Xinhua state news agency said Abe's statement showed "the true colours of the current nationalist government".
"The statement did involve a sort of vague apology, but one that should you have blinked, you would have missed," it said in a commentary.
"Such artifice will do little for his political image," Xinhua said, adding: "The wounds it (Japan) inflicted upon its Asian neighbours have not yet healed."
"Japan's wartime atrocities are regarded by many as one of the darkest periods of modern history, acknowledgement of this will release the country from the shackles of the past," it said.