TOKYO - Shinzo Abe on Thursday became the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit the controversial Yasukuni war shrine since 2006, in a move observers say will badly inflame relations with China and South Korea.
Here is the official English translation of a statement released by his office shortly after the visit.
Today, I paid a visit to Yasukuni Shrine and expressed my sincere condolences, paid my respects and prayed for the souls of all those who had fought for the country and made ultimate sacrifices.
I also visited Chinreisha, a remembrance memorial to pray for the souls of all the people regardless of nationalities who lost their lives in the war, but not enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine.
While praying for the souls of the war dead, the preciousness of peace Japan enjoys today really came home to me.
The peace and prosperity Japan enjoys today is not created only by those who are living today. The peace and prosperity we enjoy today is built on the precious sacrifices of numerous people who perished on the field wishing for the happiness of their loving wives and children, and thinking about their fathers and mothers who had raised them.
Today, I have contemplated on this, and paid my deepest respects and gratitudes on my visit.
Japan must never wage a war again. This is my conviction based on the severe remorse for the past. I have renewed my determination before the souls of the war dead to firmly uphold the pledge never to wage a war again.