Abe’s words are closely watched by China and South Korea for signs of sufficient remorse over nation’s past.
Japan has announced that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not be attending 70th anniversary celebrations of the end of World War II in the Chinese capital Beijing next month.
More than 10,000 troops, including soldiers from Russia, Mongolia and other countries, will march through central Beijing on September 3 in a parade that will highlight events marking the end of the war.
Japan’s Sankei newspaper wrote that Abe had reportedly decided to align himself with Western leaders who are not attending the parade due to the increasingly expansionist nature of the Chinese military.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters” “The prime minister has decided not to attend because of his schedule in parliament.”
“He will not be travelling to China shortly before or after 3 September. We will continue to seek out ways for our two countries to communicate with each other.”
Earlier on Monday, national broadcaster NHK said Abe would skip the ceremony in China to focus on collective self defence bills currently being debated in parliament.
The package of 11 security bills, which are endorsed by the US, allow the military to have a limited role in fighting foreign conflicts and supporting allies who require Japan’s assistance.
European and US officials have voiced concern that next month’s military parade will send the wrong message in a region which already has significant tensions.
Diplomats have also said that the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing has also influenced their decisions not to attend the celebrations.
Abe has attempted to improve relations with China, but progress has been very slow due to Beijing’s belief that Japan has not adequately atoned for its wartime activities.
China’s increasingly assertive actions and rhetoric over territorial disputes has also contributed tension.
A series of land reclamation initiatives in the South China Sea have caused controversy, as well as a disagreement over the ownership of a groups of islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
The islands are of importance to both countries due to their rich fishing grounds, potential oil and gas reserves and their strategic position.
Relations have improved slightly recently, after Chinese President Xi Jinping and Abe met at multilateral gatherings in April and last November.
High ranking Chinese officials have expressed concern over the increasingly nationalist policies of the Japanese government.
In reference to the anniversary of VJ (Victory in Japan) Day, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi said in a statement: “At this moment when the world’s people are reflecting on history and yearning for peace, we sincerely urge the Japanese side to learn from historical lessons in real concrete terms, stay committed to the path of peaceful development, honour the major security concerns of Asian neighbors and refrain from doing things that do not facilitate regional peace and stability.”