Japan's Emperor Akihito expressed "deep remorse" over his country's role in World War II as he made his last appearance Wednesday at a ceremony marking the end of the hostilities.
The 84-year-old emperor is scheduled to abdicate in April. He will be succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Naruhito.
"Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated," Akihito said in his speech marking the 73rd anniversary of the end of the war at Tokyo's Budokan hall.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not mention Japan's aggression in his anniversary speech, the sixth since taking office in late 2012. All his five predecessors, including Abe himself in his first year in office as prime minister in 2007, had stated clear acknowledgement of Japan's wartime atrocities and damage inflicted in Asia.
Abe stayed away from a Tokyo shrine that honors convicted war criminals among the war dead, apparently not to upset neighboring countries. He instead sent religious offerings to the shrine as he has done since his last visit in 2013 that drew sharp rebukes from China and South Korea.
They see the Yasukuni shrine as a symbol of Japan's wartime militarism and consider the visits an attempt to whitewash Japanese wartime aggression.