Japan's premier Fumio Kishida vowed to never again wage war on the anniversary of Japan's World War Two surrender while members of his cabinet visited a controversial shrine to mark the date, angering South Korea and China, APA reports citing Reuters.
With the Yasukuni Shrine seen as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, Tokyo's ties with China are already strained this year after Beijing conducted unprecedented military exercises around Taiwan following the visit there by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this month.
During the drills, several missiles fell in waters inside Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone.
The anniversary commemoration's links to Yasukuni, a site that honours 14 Japanese wartime leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal, as well as war dead, saw Kishida face a tricky balancing act on Monday.
On the dovish side of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), his task was to avoid irking international neighbours and partners while still keeping happy the more right-wing members of the party - particularly after the killing of former premier Shinzo Abe last month.
Kishida sent an offering to the central Tokyo shrine without visiting, Kyodo news agency reported. He also sent offerings to Yasukuni during festivals last year and this spring.
"We will never again repeat the horrors of war. I will continue to live up to this determined oath," Kishida told a secular gathering elsewhere in Tokyo, also attended by Emperor Naruhito.
"In a world where conflicts are still unabated, Japan is a proactive leader in peace," he said.
In South Korea, official reaction was swift, with officials expressed "deep disappointment" and regret.
"The Korean government is urging Japan's responsible people to face history and show humble reflection and genuine reflection on the past through action," a spokesperson for South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
China's embassy in Tokyo said in a statement that China was "extremely dissatisfied" with Japan's continued behaviour regarding Yasukuni.
"Japan must learn from history, correctly understand and profoundly reflect on its past history of aggression, and draw a clear line with militarism in order to truly win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community," it said.