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Asia Commemorates End of World War II


Asia has been commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

From solemn ceremonies like this in a temple in Seoul to demonstrations and festivities elsewhere in Asia, the region has been commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of the Japanese occupation and honored those who fought and died.

In Hong Kong Sunday, activists demonstrated against what they call Japan's lack of atonement and compensation for those who suffered during the period. Among them, a 84 year-old woman from Wuhan, China, who says she was used as a sex slave by Japanese soldiers.

She says the Japanese destroyed her whole life. She says after she became a comfort woman, she could no longer bear children.

In South Korea, a North Korean delegation joined Liberation Day celebrations in Seoul, commemorating a time when the Korean Peninsula was united against the Japanese.

Korea was split into the capitalist South and communist North shortly after liberation, and the two sides are technically still at war. But they used this occasion to exchange emotional video messages and hold a friendly soccer match in Seoul between their national teams.

Also, on Sunday, the North Korean delegation for the first time offered prayers at South Korea's National Cemetery, where war dead, including those who fought during the Korean War, are buried.

Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. It occupied much of Asia, from parts of China to the Pacific islands, from 1941 until its surrender on August 14, 1945.

Millions of people died during the occupation through fighting, execution, disease and hunger, and millions more suffered under what many survivors call the "cruelty" of the Japanese.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Monday issued what he called a "sincere apology" for Japan's colonial occupation and military aggression and vowed to forge better relations with neighbors.

But Monday's editorials in Chinese state media dismissed Japan's repeated apologies and questioned their sincerity. The Chinese and other Asians are particularly angered by the visits of Japanese officials to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war dead, including convicted war criminals.

Security was stepped up around Japanese diplomatic missions in China Monday. Anti-Japanese sentiment has previously resulted in violence.

In the Australian capital of Canberra, thousands of people gathered at the War Memorial to pay tribute to the 40,000 Australians who died during the war. Prime Minister John Howard praised his country's role in the Allied victory over Japan.

"This was a good and just war fought not for conquest but for liberty. Freedom's torch was preserved not just here in Australia but in the Pacific and in Europe. This was a war of liberation, which in a real sense liberated the people of our once bitter enemies," he said.

Japan surrendered shortly after U.S. atomic bombs destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first and only time nuclear weapons were used during war.

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