Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Japanese Emperor Naruhito apologized and expressed deep sorrow to the world Thursday on the 74th anniversary of Tokyo's surrender to Allied forces during World War II.
Japan gave up fighting on Aug. 15, 1945 -- six days after the second of two U.S. atomic bombs was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. More than 3 million Japanese died in the war.
Surrounded by yellow chrysanthemums in the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo Thursday, Naruhito made a speech similar to one delivered by his father, Emperor Akihito, on the 70th anniversary in 2015. Before that, Japanese emperors had never directly acknowledged responsibility and remorse for the war's consequences.
"Looking back on the long period of postwar peace, reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated," Naruhito said. "My thoughts are with the numerous people who lost their previous lives in the last war and their bereaved families as I attend this memorial ceremony for the war dead with a deep renewed sense of sorrow."
Naruhito, 59, became emperor in May after Akhito abdicated the Japanese throne.
At Thursday's ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe renewed his vow to maintain peace, and paid tribute to Japan's war dead.
A crowd of 5,000 people attended Thursday's ceremony, which honored the Japanese killed in the atomic bombings, Allied air bombings and fighting on Okinawa. Most relatives in attendance were age 70 or older. The eldest was 97 years old.
"Some children orphaned during the war are now more than two and a half times older than the age reached by their deceased fathers, but our venerations and yearning for them never changes," said Kokichi Morimoto, whose father died in New Guinea during the war.