Japan to hold ceremony marking end of US-led occupation

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's nationalist government said Tuesday it would hold a ceremony next month marking the 1952 return of sovereignty to Tokyo and the end of post-World War II occupation by US-led forces.

The April 28 event, 61 years after the American-led administration ceded control to a civilian Japanese government, would mark "Japan's return to the international community," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

The ceremony would also show "Japan's determination to carve out the future, learning from our past experiences," he said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party pledged to introduce the ceremony in its campaign for the general election last December, with many of his core supporters critical of what they say is Japan's apologetic attitude to its history.

Abe has flirted with reviewing past government statements offering contrition for wartime abominations committed by Japanese troops as they stomped across Asia on a brutal campaign.

Most notably, some on the right believe a 1993 statement in which Japan apologised for the sexual enslavement of foreign women should be retracted, a sentiment that stirs anger on the Korean peninsula, where Tokyo is criticised for glossing over history.

Abe told a parliamentary committee last week a ceremony would help teach history to "an increasing number of young people who don't know that there existed a seven-year occupation period" by US-led Allied forces following Japan's surrender in 1945.

Unlike in Germany, there is no commonly-accepted narrative of the wrongs committed on Japan's march to war, with history teaching sometimes criticised by outsiders as unbalanced.

But some Japanese believe Asian nations - notably China and South Korea - fixate on the past, using their country as a convenient bogeyman to distract attention from domestic concerns.

They say the region needs to look to the future, instead of squabbling over events many decades ago.