On Wednesday, Japan observed the 56th anniversary of its surrender at the end World War II with a solemn ceremony attended by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Emperor Akihito. The prime minister upset Japan's relations with other Asian countries earlier this week after a visit to a controversial war shrine.
Japan's prime minister worshipped Wednesday at a tomb honoring unknown soldiers and then took part in an annual ceremony marking the end of World War II.
At the televised service, Mr. Koizumi expressed remorse for those Asian countries that suffered under Japan's past, expansionist policies.
He said Japan must look back at the past humbly and tell the nation's youth about the sufferings and sacrifices people made in wartime. He added that Japan must not isolate itself from the international community and must continue to deepen ties with other Asian countries.
His comments come two days after his visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 2,5 million fallen Japanese soldiers, including convicted war criminals. The visit sparked controversy across the region.
In South Korea, where August 15 is honored as the day the Korean Peninsula was liberated from Japanese colonial rule, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung asked how the two countries could be good friends if Tokyo will not acknowledge its past wrongs.
In Malaysia and Hong Kong, those protesting the shrine visit took to the streets Wednesday, while newspaper editorials in China and Hong Kong offered sharp criticism of Mr. Koizumi.
Within Japan, the issue has magnified deep divisions among the people. Rallies for and against the leader's shrine visit took place across the country. In downtown Tokyo Wednesday, right-wing activists and protesters clashed and the city deployed more than two thousand police.
So far, Mr. Koizumi's repeated calls for discussions on peace with Japan's Asian neighbors appear to have had little effect. Wednesday, Mr. Koizumi said he wished to meet with his South Korean counterpart to try to improve strained ties.