Seventy years after his father surrendered to the allies, Japanese Emperor Akihito on Saturday marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two with an expression of "deep remorse" over the conflict, strengthening his usual annual wording which is considered as a subtle rebuke of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Akihito has expressed his displeasure with Abe’s efforts to modify Japan’s pacifist constitution, as the government recently made changes that will allow Japanese troops to fight abroad the first time since the WWII.
Shinzo Abe expressed ‘utmost grief’ for suffering caused by war on Friday, but said nothing new.
"Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse over the last war, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated," Akihito said at a memorial service in Tokyo along with Empress Michiko and PM Abe.
"Together with all of our people, I now pay my heartfelt tribute to all those who lost their lives in the war, both on the battlefields and elsewhere, and pray for world peace and for the continuing development of our country."
The emperor, 81, is banned by the constitution from any political role and reads the same statement every year for the anniversary.
His statement this year was seen as a subtle rebuke to Shinzo Abe, who has been pushing for a less apologetic tone towards Japan's wartime conduct, Akihito used the stronger word "remorse" instead of using the word "deep sorrow" as he did before.
Prime Minister Abe sent a cash offering of his own money to the Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Saturday, where many Japanese war victims are buried.
The shrine is seen by China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan's past militarism because it also honours wartime leaders convicted of being war criminals by an Allied tribunal. Abe has not visited in person since December 2013.
Abe's highly anticipated statement on Friday received mixed reactions as he stopped short of offering a fresh apology for World War II transgressions by his country.
While Washington welcomed the Abe's commitment to uphold past apologies, Beijing and Seoul said Japan needs to apologise sincerely to countries that suffered from its military aggression.
China urged Japan to "take concrete actions to gain the trust of its Asian neighbours and the global community," Reuters reported.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said the speech contained "regrettable elements," adding Tokyo should resolve issues regarding comfort women "soon and properly."
North Korea condemned the speech by describing it as an attempt by "rightist conservatives to conceal its crime-woven past," according to Reuters.
In a statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, "our country inflicted immeasurable damage and suffering on innocent people... When I squarely contemplate this obvious fact, even now, I find myself speechless and my heart is rent with the utmost grief," Abe said.
However, he insisted future generations should not be forced to keep apologising for wartime atrocities.
Japanese PM has been accused of playing down the dark side of Japan's wartime past, others criticized him over the issue of comfort women, who were forced to work in brothels run by the Japanese military during the war. Abe made no direct reference to those girls and women in his statement.