Japan PM apologetic over WWII, but says next generation not obliged

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed deep remorse Friday over World War II and said previous national apologies were unshakeable, but emphasised future generations should not have to keep saying sorry.

In a closely watched speech just ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, the nationalist premier appeared to tread a fine line between regret over Japanese wartime aggression while also focusing on what his pacifist country had done since the end of the conflict.

"Japan has repeatedly expressed feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war.... we have consistently devoted ourselves to the peace and prosperity of the region since the end of the war," Abe said.

"Such position(s) articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future." When speaking about China, Abe referred to "unbearable sufferings caused by the Japanese military".

But he added later that future generations of Japanese should not have to continually apologise.

"We must not let our children, grandchildren and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologise," he said.

Japan's wartime history has come under a renewed focus since Abe swept to power in late 2012.

The 60-year-old has been sharply criticised by some for playing down Japan's past and trying to expand the role of the military.