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Japan's hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told lawmakers Friday he intends to release a new statement on World War II, a move that could cause friction with neighbouring nations including China.
"I would like to announce a future-orientated statement that will suit the 21st century," Abe said. "On the timing and the content I'd like to think thoroughly hereafter."
The nationalist premier said he wanted to update a landmark statement issued in 1995 by then-prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, seen as a key step in what many Asian nations say was Japan coming to terms with its brutal history.
The statement said Japan "through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations", adding the premier feels "deep remorse" and offers a "heartfelt apology".
Abe said Friday he was in agreement with previous sentiments, adding: "Japan in the past caused great damage and suffering to many countries, particularly in Asia. The Abe cabinet shares that recognition with past cabinets."
In a possible hint the statement may come in 2015, he said: "The so-called Murayama statement was issued to commemorate 50 years after the war, and 60 years after the war the (Junichiro) Koizumi administration issued a statement."
Neighbouring countries that came under the yoke of Japan's military tyranny in the first half of the 20th Century, notably China and South Korea, chafe at the idea of Japan reneging on its apology, which both insist was insufficient anyway.