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Japan Prime Minister Shuns Controversial Shrine, Apologizes Over WWII

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan places flowers at the alter during a memorial ceremony for the national war dead in Tokyo today.
Japan's liberal prime minister broke from tradition today by not visiting a controversial shrine which honors World War II criminals among the country's war dead.

Instead, Prime Minister Naoto Kan used the 65th anniversary of the ending of the war to express deep regret for the suffering the war caused Japan's Asian neighbors.

For at least a quarter century, Japanese government leaders have used the annniversary to visit Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine.

But Kan, of the center-left Democratic Party, instead said in a speech that Japan had caused "great damage and suffering" to many nations.

Japan surrendered just days after the United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and after Soviet forces launched a surprise assault on the Japanese Army that was occupying eastern Asia.

compiled from agency reports