Japan inflicted "immeasurable damage and suffering on innocent people" during World War Two, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said as he expressed "profound grief" for those who died.
In a much-anticipated speech marking 70 years since Japan surrendered, Mr Abe said his country "must squarely face history" but insisted future generations should not have to apologise for Japan's actions.
The wording of Mr Abe's statement was under close scrutiny.
He has faced accusations of trying to play down his country's actions during the conflict.
China and South Korea - who suffered at the hands of Japan during their wartime "colonial rule and aggression" - wanted Mr Abe to stick to a landmark 1995 "heartfelt apology" by then-premier Tomiichi Murayama.
However, the Japanese prime minister is also under pressure to appease nationalists fed up with what it considers a humiliating cycle of apologies.