Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could help remove international doubts about Japan's stance toward its wartime past by apologizing over World War II in a statement he is planning to help mark the 70th anniversary of the war's end, said Yasuo Fukuda, one of Abe's predecessors.

The statement by Abe, whose conservative agenda includes adopting a less apologetic tone toward the wartime past and bolstering Japan's defenses, will be closely parsed in China and South Korea, where memories of Japan's past militarism run deep.

Washington, which wants better ties between Japan and its Asian neighbors, will also be keenly watching.