TOKYO (REUTERS)- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed "profound grief" and his "sincere condoloences" for Japan's wartime aggression in a statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the country's World War II defeat.
But he also said that generations not involved in the conflict should not be burdened with continued apologies, while reaffirming previous official apologies for his country’s role in the conflict: "Such position articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future."
Beijing and Seoul had made clear that they wanted him to stick to a landmark 1995 "heartfelt apology" by then Premier Tomiichi Murayama for suffering caused by Tokyo's "colonial rule and aggression".
Here are key statements made by Mr Murayama and other top Japanese politicians on the country's militaristic past.
PM TOMIICHI MURAYAMA ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY, 1995
"During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.
"In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology. Allow me also to express my feelings of profound mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, of that history.
"Building from our deep remorse on this occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, Japan must eliminate self-righteous nationalism, promote international coordination as a responsible member of the international community and, thereby, advance the principles of peace and democracy.
"At the same time, as the only country to have experienced the devastation of atomic bombing, Japan, with a view to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons, must actively strive to further global disarmament in areas such as the strengthening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime."
PM JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI ON THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY, 2005
"In the past, Japan, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.
"Sincerely facing these facts of history, I once again express my feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology, and also express the feelings of mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, in the war. I am determined not to allow the lessons of that horrible war to erode, and to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world without ever again waging a war.
"After the war ... Japan has resolutely maintained its principle of resolving all matters by peaceful means and not by force, and proactively extended material and personnel assistance for the sake of the peace and prosperity of the world ... Japan's post war history has indeed been six decades of manifesting its remorse on the war through actions."
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY YOHEI KONO ON "COMFORT WOMEN", 1993
"As a result of the study which indicates that comfort stations were operated in extensive areas for long periods, it is apparent that there existed a great number of comfort women. Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities of the day.
"The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women. The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military.
"The government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere."
"Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honour and dignity of many women. The government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women."