Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a statement Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, but refrained from offering his own apology for Japan's wartime past, drawing criticism from media and scholars worldwide.
South Korean media widely believed that Abe's statement avoided direct apology and lacked sincerity.
Yonhap News Agency said in a commentary that Abe's statement was a huge step backwards, in comparison with the statements made by former Japanese Prime Ministers Tomiichi Murayama and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.
Both Murayama and Kono clearly mentioned in their statements that Japan's colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous damage and suffering to many Asian countries, Yonhap said, but Abe used ambiguous wordings for introspection and apology.
The South Korean newspaper Chosun also said that Abe's statement did not clearly state that Japan was the responsible party.
The newspaper said that Abe's statement stopped at the "past apologies" and did not directly point out that Japan was responsible for colonial rule and aggression.
When reporting Abe's statement, the Associated Press (AP) said on Friday that the Japanese leader stopped short of an apology for World War II.
For its part, Reuters reported on Friday that Abe expressed "utmost grief" over the war but offered no fresh apology.
Abe used the words "apology" and "aggression" in the statement, but unlike his predecessors Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi, he did not speak in his own words, said Minoru Morita, a Tokyo-based political analyst.
Abe's statement lacked sincerity, Morita was quoted as saying by DPA.
Sarah Hyde, senior lecturer in the Politics of Japan at the University of Kent, said in an article published recently on the academic website The Conversation that Japan's way of remembering World War II still infuriates its neighbors.
Despite widespread public rancor over the war across the rest of East Asia, the Abe government is making no effort to improve Japanese war education 70 years on, she said.
"While Germany has managed to build holocaust education into its curriculum and is now at the center of the European project, Abe and his predecessors have never acknowledged that relations with (South) Korea and China would be greatly improved if there were a push for education and discussion about this terrible history," Hyde said.
"As things stand, no matter how the militaristic and nationalistic Abe handles the memory of the war in this anniversary year, Japan's relations with its former adversaries are set to keep festering," she said.
Gu Xuewu, director of the Center for Global Studies of Bonn University, told Xinhua that Abe's statement was neither sincere nor apologetic.
Gu believed that Abe meant "Japan should not apologize now and in the future" as he argued in his statement that Japan had apologized many times in the past, and Japan must not let its future generations, "who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize."