Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to deliver a much-anticipated statement, marking 70 years since his country’s World War Two surrender.
Its content will be closely watched by Japan’s neighbours, who are concerned he may water down previous expressions of regret by the Japanese government.
Previous prime ministers used the once-every-decade statement to apologise for Japan’s actions in World War Two.
But Mr Abe has been accused of playing down Japan’s wartime atrocities.
Mr Abe’s statement will be approved by cabinet shortly before he delivers it in Tokyo early on Friday evening.
China and South Korea in particular suffered extensively under Japanese wartime occupation, and say Japan has never fully atoned for its actions.
They want him to stand by the wording of a landmark apology issued in 1995 by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.
In it Mr Murayama issued a “heartfelt apology” and expressed “deep remorse” for Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression”, sentiments which were repeated 10 years later by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
But Mr Abe has said he wants to be “forward-looking”, and to highlight Japan’s peaceful development since the war and its central role on the global stage.
Japanese media reports have indicated he will use the words “apology” and “aggression” and will endorse previous statements “as a whole”, rather than issuing a new apology.
Earlier on Friday, Mr Abe said: “We must never again repeat the horrors of war… I will properly follow the path of peace to construct a prosperous and proud Japan.”
Mr Abe is under pressure not only to avoid angering China and South Korea, important regional allies, but also to satisfy domestic nationalists who have grown uneasy with the repeated demands that they apologise for historic decisions.
The statement comes weeks after Japan’s lower house approved changes to the constitution which would enable its forces to fight overseas for the first time since WW2.
Mr Abe has pushed for the changes, but polls show more than half of Japanese citizens oppose them.
World War II end dates confusion
- Victory over Japan Day (VJ) marks the initial announcement of Japan’s surrender.
- It is also known as Victory in the Pacific Day (VP Day).
- The announcement was made on 15 August in Japan, but – because of time zone differences – it was still 14 August in the US.
- VJ Day is marked in Australia, New Zealand and the UK on 15 August – Japan also holds memorial events.
- The US commemorates WW2’s end on 2 September – the day when Japan signed the surrender document aboard the USS Missouri.
- China this year will mark the anniversary on 3 September with a huge military parade on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, seen as part of China’s campaign to highlight Japanese war atrocities.