NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Okinawa on Tuesday marked the 64th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, which left more than 200,000 people dead in the closing days of World War II.
During a memorial ceremony at Peace Memorial Park in the city of Itoman, Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima urged the Japanese and U.S. governments to consolidate and reduce U.S. bases in Okinawa and lessen its burden in terms of the associated crimes and accidents.
Nakaima also said unexploded shells from the fighting 64 years ago are still a problem.
Prime Minister Taro Aso pledged to put forward “full efforts to alleviate the burden” on the prefecture and also promised to work on removing the unexploded bombs.
A construction worker was severely injured in January when a shell detonated in Itoman, site of some of the fiercest fighting.
“I have not forgotten that the peace and prosperity of Japan today has been built on the grave sacrifices of those who perished in the war,” Aso said. “We must never repeat the horror of war.”
This year, the names of 123 people were newly added to the list of those who perished, bringing the total to 240,856.
About 4,500 ceremony participants, including Lower House Speaker Yohei Kono and Upper House President Satsuki Eda, offered one minute of silent prayer at noon.
“Frankly speaking, I could not achieve much to alleviate Okinawa’s burden, and I must apologize for that,” said Kono, who worked on the U.S. base issue when he was the foreign minister. “I sincerely hope the new generation of politicians works on the issue seriously.”