China Furious As Japan's PM Makes War Tribute
The Japanese Prime Minister is facing condemnation from his Asian neighbours after he described more than 1,000 war criminals as "martyrs".
Shinzo Abe praised the contributions of those detained during World War Two in a note sent to a little-known memorial service.
He wrote: "I humbly express my deepest sympathy for the martyrs? who sacrificed their souls to become the foundation of peace and prosperity in Japan today."
The note has prompted an angry response from China and South Korea.
Both countries have accused the politician of showing no remorse for the wartime aggression seen from Tokyo during WWII.
They are calling on him to "make a clean break with militarism".
Qin Gang, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, said: "We urge Japan to reflect on the invasion and take action to win the trust of the international community."
Meanwhile, South Korea's Foreign Ministry claimed that Mr Abe's message of condolence had made them question the sincerity of Tokyo's apology over WWII.
Many of the Asian nations which felt the brunt of Japanese militarism during the early 20th century see honouring war criminals as proof that there is no remorse.
Before news of Mr Abe's message emerged, Japan's relationship with China and South Korea was already strained.
Last December, Mr Abe was criticised for praying at the Yasukuni Shrine, which pays tribute to 2.5 million Japanese war dead, and 14 "Class A" war criminals.
As a result, the Prime Minister is yet to chair bilateral conferences with fellow leaders in the region - even though he has been in office for 20 months.
Yoshihide Suga, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, has insisted Mr Abe sent his controversial message in his capacity as party leader, but not as Prime Minister.
Japan has formally accepted the convictions for the "Class A" criminals, as decided by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East after the war.
But Mr Abe has insisted that the judgement does not apply under Japanese law.
(c) Sky News 2014