Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida bestows flower Monday during a World War II memorial service at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. Japan marked 77 years since the country’s surrender during World War II as tensions continued to mount in the region over the fate of Taiwan. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Japan on Monday marked 77 years since the country's surrender during World War II, but the country's prime minister stopped short of apologizing for his country's role in further igniting the conflict.
The national memorial service was held as tensions continued to mount in the region between the United States and China over the fate of Taiwan.
State ceremonies, which took place in Tokyo, commemorated 2.3 million Japanese soldiers and 800,000 civilians who died in the war, many of them victims of atomic bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A moment of silence was observed at noon.
"Under the flag of proactive contributions to peace, we will join forces with the international community and make all-out efforts to solve the various problems the world is facing," Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a crowd of roughly 1,000 people in a scaled-down ceremony at Nippon Budokan arena, according to Japan Today.
Vowing to promote future peace, Kishida stopped short of mentioning Japan's hostilities during the war. Instead he left it up to Emperor Naruhito to express "deep remorse" for his country's previous aggressions.
"Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will ever again be repeated," Naruhito said during the ceremony.
Kishida, who represents the city of Hiroshima, focused on highlighting Japan's "proactive contributions to peace" -- a message that echoed his two immediate predecessors, Yoshihide Suga and the recently assassinated Shinzo Abe.
Japanese leaders made a tradition of including expressions of remorse in their speeches for the annual ceremony from 1994 until 2012, But that changed when Abe returned to the helm in 2012.
On Monday, Kishida and others decried the war in Ukraine as the latest example of "incessant conflicts" around the world.
The ceremony was attended by about 600 aging relatives of those who died in the war, the majority of whom are now older than 70.
Tensions flared earlier this month when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan as part of a tour of several Asian countries. The trip angered Chinese President Xi Jinping, who called President Joe Biden at the White House to complain.
China, since 1949, has continued to claim Taiwan as its rightful territory, while the United States maintains diplomatic relations with the island and continues to provide it with weapons and infrastructure to defend itself.
For decades, military drills by both countries have kept tensions dangerously hot in the region, increasing concerns of a possible military conflict.