U.S. welcomes Abe's statement on war anniversary

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement of deep remorse to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two and his commitment to uphold apologies for Japan’s behavior made in the past.

A statement from the White House’s National Security Council also said Japan’s record since the war had been “a model to everyone” and Washington valued Abe’s assurances of Japan’s intent to expand its contribution to international peace and prosperity.

“We welcome Prime Minister Abe’s expression of deep remorse for the suffering caused by Japan during the World War II era, as well as his commitment to uphold past Japanese government statements on history,” NSC spokesman Ned Price said.

“For 70 years Japan has demonstrated an abiding commitment to peace, democracy, and the rule of law. This record stands as a model for nations everywhere,” he said.

Abe on Friday expressed “utmost grief” for the “immeasurable damage and suffering” Japan inflicted in World War Two, but said that future generations of Japanese should not have to keep apologizing for the mistakes of the past.

Abe also said he upheld past official apologies including a landmark 1995 statement by then-premier Tomiichi Murayama, but the conservative leader offered no new apology of his own.

The war still haunts Japan’s relations with China and South Korea, which suffered under Japan’s sometimes brutal occupation and colonial rule before Tokyo’s defeat in 1945. Beijing and Seoul had made clear they wanted Abe to stick to the “heartfelt apology” for Japanese “colonial rule and aggression.”

Abe made the statement at a time when he is pushing for a more robust defense policy through measures that domestic critics say violate Japan’s pacifist constitution.

The United States is keen to see Japan play a greater security role in Asia in the face of a rising China and the two countries are deepening already close defense ties.

At the same time, Washington has stressed the need for Japan and its neighbors to bury historical animosities exacerbated by the war.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Andrew Hay