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People offered prayers and a minute’s silence was held at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito has expressed “deep remorse” over his country’s actions during World War Two, on the 75th anniversary of its surrender.

“I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never again be repeated,” he said at a ceremony on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised to “never repeat the tragedy”.

The PM marked the occasion by sending an offering to a controversial war shrine in Tokyo, but did not visit in person.

However, four ministers did visit the Yasukuni Shrine, in a move that is likely to anger China and South Korea.

It is the first time in four years such senior politicians have attended the shrine, which pays homage to a number of senior figures convicted of war crimes as well as the country’s war dead.

“I paid respects… to the souls of those who nobly sacrificed themselves during the war,” Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda explained to reporters.

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Social distancing measures were in place at the Yasukuni Shrine because of the Covid-19 pandemic

Emperor Naruhito delivered a short speech at a memorial service in Tokyo, which was scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic. About 500 people were in attendance compared to more than 6,000 last year and face masks were compulsory.

“Looking back on the long period of post-war peace, reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never again be repeated,” he said at the event.

Naruhito, 60, began his reign in May last year after his father, Emperor Akihito, became the first monarch to abdicate the throne in more than 200 years.

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Emperor Naruhito spoke at a scaled back memorial service in Tokyo

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in did not mention the controversial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine in remarks made on Saturday.

President Moon instead used the occasion – known as Liberation Day in South Korea – to say his government was prepared to sit down for face to face talks over historical disputes at any time.

Seoul and Tokyo are divided over compensation demands for Koreans forced to work under the Japanese occupation, which began in 1910 and ended in 1945.


Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine is home to the spirits of Japan’s 2.5 million war dead.

This morning, despite 36 degree heat and Covid-19, thousands of ordinary people lined up to pay their respects.

But the Yasukuni Shrine also honours 14 of Japan’s wartime leaders, men who were later convicted as class A war criminals.

Any visit to the shrine by a senior Japanese politician is considered highly offensive in Korea and China.

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Media captionShinzo Abe controversially visited the Yasukuni shrine in 2013

For that reason, Japan’s emperor never visits the shrine, and today’s official commemorations are being held elsewhere.

But four senior members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet did go to Yasukuni this morning, and Mr Abe himself sent a ritual offering.

That will reinforce the view in Beijing and Seoul that 75 years after the war ended, Japan’s ruling elite is still less than sincere in its remorse for this country’s wartime aggression.


Japan entered World War Two in September 1940. It drew the US into the war at the end of 1941, after attacking its naval base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.

By the end of the war more than 100,000 Americans and 71,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers, including more than 12,000 prisoners of war, had died in the Pacific. Millions more died during the Japanese occupation of China and South Korea.

Victory in Europe (VE) Day took place on 8 May 1945 following Germany’s surrender, but the war continued in the Asia-Pacific region for months.

Following the end of the fighting in Europe, the Allies told Japan to surrender on 26 July 1945, but the deadline passed without them doing this.

The war was brought to an end shortly after the US dropped nuclear bombs over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945.

On 15 August, Japanese Emperor Hirohito was heard on the radio for the first time and announced an end to the fighting. The country’s official surrender was signed on 2 September that same year.

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A Foreign Office Minister Has Resigned From Government Over Plans To Cut International Aid

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Baroness Liz Sugg (right) is a minister at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (PA)


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The government is facing a brewing backbench rebellion and ministerial resignations over its controversial plans to scrap the UK’s pledge to give 0.7% of GDP in international aid.

Baroness Liz Sugg, minister for overseas territories and sustainable development at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), submitted her resignation following the move.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, she said it was “fundamentally wrong” to abandon the commitment, adding that it should be “kept in the tough times as well as the good”. 

“Given the link between our development spend and the health of our economy, the economic downturn has already led to significant cuts this year and I do not believe we should reduce our support further at a time of unprecedented global crises,” she continued.

“I cannot support or defend this decision, it is therefore right that I tend my resignation.”

The plan has also sparked anger from a number of backbench Tory MPs, with one former minister claiming the cut could lead to 100,000 preventable deaths. 

Rishi Sunak confirmed in his Spending Review on Wednesday that the UK would be reducing the commitment  0.7% of GDP international aid commitment to 0.5% following the crippling effects of the coronavirus crisis on the economy.

He told MPs: “During a domestic fiscal emergency, when we need to prioritise our limited resources on jobs and public services. 

“Sticking rigidly to spending 0.7% of our national income on overseas aid, is difficult to justify to the British people, especially when we’re seeing the highest peacetime levels of borrowing on record.”

It is understood that the government would increase the level of aid spending back its original level in the future once the economic situation improved. 

But a Treasury source suggested that MPs were unlikely to get a chance to vote on the aid cut, as the law enshrining the commitment allows for it to be adjusted in challenging circumstances.

Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell told PoliticsHome yesterday he hoped to lead a rebellion against the changes to aid.

Speaking in the Commons following the chancellor’s statement, Mr Mitchell told Mr Sunak the decision “will be the cause of 100,000 preventable deaths, mainly among children.

“This is a choice I for one am not prepared to make and none of us in this House will be able to look our children in the eye and claim we did not know what we were voting for,” he added. 

Fellow backbenchers Peter Bottomley, Tobias Ellwood and Pauline Latham also spoke out against the move and expressed their intention to oppose it.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has joined criticised the government, writing on Twitter that cutting aid was “shameful and wrong”.

“It’s contrary to numerous government promises and its manifesto. I join others in urging MPs to reject it for the good of the poorest, and the UK’s own reputation and interest,” he added. 

 

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Diego Maradona dies: Three days of mourning begin in Argentina as tributes pour in

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Diego Maradona (centre) and Ossie Ardiles (right) played together at the 1982 World Cup

Today’s football superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo “could not even dream” of being admired as much as Diego Maradona was, says his former Argentina team-mate Ossie Ardiles.

Three days of national mourning have begun in Argentina after Maradona died on Wednesday at the age of 60.

His body will lie in state at the Casa Rosada, the seat of the Argentina government, during that time.

“To be Diego Maradona was incredibly beautiful,” Ardiles told the BBC.

“But on the other hand, it was not easy at all. Right from a really early age, he was subject to the press all the time. He didn’t have a normal childhood, he never had normal teenage years.

“Everybody wanted to be with him, everybody wanted a piece of him, so it was incredibly difficult.”

Maradona, who played for clubs including Barcelona and Napoli, was captain when Argentina won the 1986 World Cup, scoring the famous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the quarter-finals.

Former Tottenham midfielder Ardiles, who played alongside Maradona at the 1982 World Cup, said he was “a god” in Argentina, in Naples and all around the world.

“He will be remembered as a genius in football,” he added. “You can see the extraordinary amount of interest that he generates.

“People like [Juventus and Portugal striker] Ronaldo, or people like [Barcelona and Argentina forward] Messi, they couldn’t even dream of having this kind of admiration.

“That was the Maradona phenomenon – all the time.”

A post-mortem examination was due to take place on Maradona’s body later on Wednesday after he died at about midday local time at his home in Tigre, near Buenos Aires.

The former Argentina attacking midfielder and manager had successful surgery on a brain blood clot earlier in November and was to be treated for alcohol dependency.

A minute’s silence took place before Wednesday’s Champions League matches and the same will happen before all other European fixtures this week.

Messi and Ronaldo were among current players to pay tribute, while Brazilian football great Pele said he hoped one day they would “play ball together in the sky”.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Maradona “made world football better”.

“There was a banner in Argentina, one year ago, that I read that said: ‘No matter what you have done with your life, Diego, it matters what you do for our lives,'” former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola added.

“It expresses perfectly what this guy gave us. The man of joy and pleasure and his commitment for world football.”

Former Tottenham manager and Argentina defender Mauricio Pochettino said: “Broken with pain. Diego, you were my hero and friend. I was so fortunate to have shared football and life with you.”

The Vatican said Pope Francis, an Argentine and a football fan, would be remembering Maradona in his prayers.

Fans mourn their hero

In Argentina, Wednesday’s match between Sport Club Internacional and Maradona’s former club Boca Juniors was postponed.

Fans flocked to La Bombonera, Boca Juniors’ stadium in Buenos Aires, where many were in tears – despite, in the case of some, being too young to remember Maradona’s playing days.

They also congregated in the San Andres neighbourhood, where Maradona lived, and to La Plata, where he most recently was manager of local club Gimnasia y Esgrima.

In the country’s capital, “gracias Diego” replaced train information on digital metro signs, while fans sang La Mano De Dios (The Hand Of God) in city suburbs.

Boca Juniors women's player Yamila Rodriguez cries in front of graffiti image of Diego Maradona

Thousands of miles away, they also gathered outside Napoli’s San Paolo stadium, which was lit up in tribute to the man who scored 81 goals in 188 appearances for the Italian club.

Fireworks erupted in the sky as those below, clad in Maradona shirts and even Maradona face masks, chanted and wept.

Presentational grey lineAnalysis box by Katy Watson, South America correspondent

Maradona wasn’t just a sportsman for Argentinians, he was an icon, a political player and of course, a loveable rogue. There is deep sadness as people prepare to pay their respects to their superstar footballer.

But his influence goes beyond Argentina – South Americans are proud of their footballing heritage so this news has resonated across the region.

In neighbouring Brazil, where their man Pele vied for the title of world’s best footballer, Maradona’s death was headline news – much of the rivalry between the two countries can be put down to the two players, such is the passion for the beautiful came here.

But rivalry was put aside with Pele paying tribute to Maradona as a dear friend.

“One day, I hope, we will have a kick about together in heaven,” he said.

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A statement from Napoli said: “Everyone is waiting for our words but what words could we possibly use for a pain such as this that we are going through?

“Now is the moment for tears. Then there will be the moment for words.

“We are in mourning. We feel like a boxer who has been knocked out. We are in shock. A devastating blow for both city and club.”

A day of mourning will take place in Naples on Thursday.

The mayor of the city, Luigi de Magistris, has called for the Stadio San Paolo be renamed in honour of Maradona.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Paul Elliott, who played against Maradona while at Pisa, said: “I have to say it was remarkable. There was a sublime talent that this man had, an aura, a presence, and you know when you feel a sense of energy.

“Napoli is a very poor part of the south of Italy, but their whole world was built around Maradona and Napoli.

“If you look at where the club was when he arrived, the impact of one man unequivocally was the key and the catalyst to the success that they had, and the way he just gave everybody hope.

“That was just by his remarkable, sublime talent.”

Fans gather outside Napoli's stadiumA Napoli fan cries while looking at Maradona tributesA mother and son mourn Maradona outside La BomboneraA fan wearing a Maradona Argentina shirt looks at a tribute in Buenos AiresA woman lights a candle at a tribute in La Plata



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Nearly 100 whales die in mass stranding in New Zealand

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Some 97 whales and three dolphins died in the stranding, which conservation department staff were alerted to around midday local time on Sunday.

A power outage and the remote location of New Zealand’s most eastern islands, around 500 miles east off the country’s South Island, meant Department of Conservation rangers did not arrive at Waitangi West Beach until 3 p.m., officials said.

“Only 26 of the whales were still alive at this point, the majority of them appearing very weak, and were euthanized due to the rough sea conditions and almost certainty of there being great white sharks in the water which are brought in by a stranding like this,” biodiversity ranger Jemma Welch said in a statement.

Pilot whales — small, toothed whales with a bulging forehead, a short snout and pointed flippers — are sociable creatures, and live in groups of dozens, hundreds or even thousands.

Two more whales were stranded on Monday and also had to be euthanized, the Department of Conservation said, adding that the whales will be left to decompose naturally.

Sri Lanka rescues 100 beached whales after mass stranding

Representatives from the Indigenous Hokotehi Moriori Trust and Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust performed a karakii/karakia — a prayer, or incantation — to honor the spirit of the whales on Sunday, the department added.

Mass strandings are common on the Chatham Islands, according to the department, which said that up to 1,000 animals died in a stranding in 1918.

In September, more than 450 pilot whales beached in Tasmania, Australia, in that state’s largest ever beaching. At least a third died during rescue attempts.

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