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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hashimoto Shuns Militarists On Anniversary of Surrender

TOKYO -- Two starkly different ceremonies were held Friday on the 52nd anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender: one by the government expressing remorse, and one by nationalists at a controversial shrine.

How Japan commemorates the day is watched closely by China and South Korea, where anger over Japan's brutality during the war remains strong.

This year, as every year, Emperor Akihito presided over a solemn ceremony at the Budokan hall. In a solemn speech, he said he feels "deep sadness" for the lives that were lost in the war.

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, wearing formal mourning clothes, said Japan felt "deep remorse" for its wartime acts.

The prime minister was conspicuously absent from observances held just down the road at the Yasukuni Shrine, a focal point for militarism during the war.

Hashimoto drew angry criticism by visiting it in July 1996. And Japanese media said he wanted to avoid stirring up more criticism now, especially from China, which he visits next month.

Yasukuni, dedicated to the country's war dead, is controversial because those enshrined there include executed war criminals. The grounds include a war museum that houses a kamikaze plane.

U.S. occupation forces prevented Japan from using it as a national shrine, so it is regarded as a private religious site.