Abe vows at rites to ease Okinawa pain

Kyodo

Residents and government officials marked the 68th anniversary Sunday of the end of the World War II Battle of Okinawa, which left more than 240,000 people dead, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledging to ease the concentration of U.S. bases in the prefecture.

A memorial service for the war dead was held at Peace Memorial Park in the city of Itoman, the site of the final stage of the battle, with about 5,800 people, including residents and government officials, attending.

“I will do all I can to reduce the load on Okinawa,” Abe said in his speech at the ceremony, while Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima again urged the Japanese and the U.S. government to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma out of the prefecture and “drastically revise as soon as possible” the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, which gives special treatment to U.S. service members in Japan.

Abe told reporters after the ceremony that he will make “more efforts” to eventually move the Futenma base out of Ginowan.

Under an agreement between Tokyo and Washington, the Futenma base in the crowded city of Ginowan is to be replaced by a planned new airstrip in the less-populated Henoko coastal area in Nago, further north in Okinawa.

Other attendees included Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, marking the first time a U.S. ambassador has attended the event since Walter Mondale in 1995.

It was also the first time that the foreign and defense ministers attended the ceremony. Abe’s government has made little progress in reducing the heavy concentration of U.S. bases in Okinawa.

Antipathy toward U.S. bases has risen since the deployment last October of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to the Futenma base.

A state-sponsored ceremony held April 28 in Tokyo commemorating the day Japan recovered its sovereignty in 1952 after losing World War II also angered the Okinawan people because their prefecture wasn’t included in the deal and was left under U.S. control for another 20 years.

This year, the names of 62 war dead were newly inscribed in the Cornerstone of Peace in the park, bringing the total to 241,227, regardless of nationality and military or civilian status.

The Battle of Okinawa started in spring 1945, when U.S. forces landed on the main islands of Okinawa and remote islands nearby.

Some 94,000 civilians, about a quarter of the prefecture’s residents, died during the three-month campaign.

  • brandon thompson

    It’s sad that the U.S. won’t respect the will of the people of Okinawans and leave. Instead the military force themselves on the islanders. Talk about imperialism. Wonder why people hate the U.S. so much? The people of Okinawa would rather defend themselves than have an occupier.

    • jwtn

      Im not surprised, but why are americans disrespectful. All the Okinawans want is their land back from both Americans and Japanese, help to improve their quality of life. Their land was taken from them illegally And the same rights to freedom and democracy that both Americans and Japanese enjoy but take for granted. Is this unreasonable.

    • RMMStaInes

      US-Japan Government think’s more of the national security rather than just the Okinawa Region. Okinawa lies on a strategic location to defend mainland Japan and the Pacific region. The US Military and both countries government deeply respect the Okinawan sentiments, but unfortunately even though the world war has ended 68 years ago there are still other nations who harbor revenge and anger to Japan. Leaving Okinawa by themselves to defend will just trigger the start of an asian conflict or much worse the annihilation of human race. Although there were some atrocities and crimes done by men in uniform, that doesn’t mean they were just set free from any liabilities. Military leaders always make sure that they always get the harsh punishment they deserved and show to the rest of rank and file that there are serious consequences for every wrong decisions and bad behaviour.

    • Chance W.

      You forget Okinawa AMERICAN territory, we GAVE it back in the 70s, we didn`t have to do that. The Japanese government want us there, remember that. If they want us to leave, we will go. The fillipinos wanted us to leave, and we did. The Japanese asked us to put troops there, and we did so. The Japanese government wanted did a poll and 70% of Japanese appreciate the American forces. Do a bit of research before you make yourself look like a misinformed ass.

  • Mj Marcus

    You did not mention the role of the Imperial Japanese military in the deaths of the 94,000 civilians. For example the Lily Corps students, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himeyuri_students.