Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed "deep remorse" for Japan's wartime past in a speech Wednesday, but failed to repeat previous official apologies to the victims of Japan's colonial aggression.
Abe also took a veiled swipe at China during his closely watched speech at the Asia-Africa summit in Indonesia, which many hoped would serve as an opportunity for Tokyo and Beijing to mend damaged ties.
In the lead-up to the event, the conservative Japanese leader had told local media outlets there was no need for him to reiterate the same landmark apologies made by his predecessors in 1995 and 2005.
His Jakarta speech made only passing reference to Japan's past militarism, noting Tokyo had "feelings of deep remorse over the past war" but insisting its leaders had long ago committed to the principles of peace.
Abe also said the international community should "never allow to go unchecked the use of force by the mightier to twist the weaker around."
This was an apparent reference to China, which has been accused of bullying its neighbors and is involved in a worsening dispute with Tokyo over a group of strategic islands in the East China Sea.
Earlier, Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchanged greetings and politely shook hands at a photo session to kick off the conference.