TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan has lodged a protest with China over a call by China's Xinhua state news agency for Japan's Emperor Akihito to apologize for its past military aggression, a Japanese government spokesman said on Friday.
The news agency's commentary was "significantly discourteous" to the emperor and it conflicted with China's position on the issue, the chief government spokesman said.
"It is utterly unfavorable as it could throw cold water on the relationship between Japan and China which is on the recovery path following two meetings between the leaders," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
"Japan strongly protested ... through diplomatic channels."
Japan invaded China in 1937 and ruled parts of it brutally for the next eight years. Western and Chinese historians estimate millions of Chinese civilians were killed.
Sino-Japan relations have long been affected by what China sees as Japan's failure to atone for its actions.
Xinhua said this week Japan's then Emperor Hirohito never apologized to the countries and people that suffered during the war and said his successor, Akihito, should do so.
Emperor Akihito marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two on Aug. 15 with an expression of "deep remorse" over the conflict.
Ties between the neighbors have thawed slightly since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at multilateral gatherings in April and last November.
(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Robert Birsel)