TOKYO (AFP) - Tokyo said on Friday it has lodged a formal protest with Beijing after China's official state news agency Xinhua called on Japanese emperor Akihito to apologise for his country's past military aggression.
Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said a Xinhua commentary published on Tuesday was insulting to the 81-year-old monarch, whose father Hirohito was derided as the "criminal ringleader" of Tokyo's imperial march across Asia last century.
"The content of the story is seriously discourteous to his imperial majesty, and not in line with China's official position," Suga told a regular press briefing.
"This is utterly undesirable as it could throw cold water on Japan-China relations which have been improving."
Japan occupied parts of China from the 1930s until the end of World War II and Beijing says millions died at the hands of imperial Japanese troops.
That history colours current relations, which have also been strained by territorial disputes.
Xinhua noted that Hirohito never apologised for a war fought in his name, and called on his son to say sorry and seek "forgiveness, show contrition to win trust, and express earnestness to secure harmony".
Akihito marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in mid-August by saying he felt "profound remorse" over the conflict.
Xinhua's editorial comes as Beijing prepares to hold September 3 commemorations to mark the end of what it calls the "Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War".
Japan formally surrendered to the Allies on Sept 2, 1945.