National

Government-funded annual memorial ceremonies for March 2011 disasters to end in 2021

JIJI

Government-funded memorial services each year commemorating the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami will end in 2021, which will mark the 10th anniversary of the massive disaster, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe concluded that he should determine the course for the annual ceremony during his tenure of office, sources said.

“The prime minister believes that he should make decisions as much as possible on issues that would likely put a strain on the government of his successor,” one source said. Abe’s current term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will end in September 2021.

The end of the government-sponsored ceremony will mark a milestone following the catastrophe, which caused more than 15,000 deaths, mostly in the Tohoku region.

At a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the government decided to hold the ninth anniversary ceremony for the disaster at the National Theatre in Tokyo on March 11. Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko are slated to attend.

The government set up a preparatory office for the ceremony at the Cabinet Office the same day.

Ten years will be “a milestone in a sense,” Suga told a news conference.

The annual mourning event in Kobe for the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake has been sponsored by the prefectural government of Hyogo and others. It was attended almost every year by the sitting prime minister for 10 years through 2005.

Suga said local government leaders in the areas stricken by the 2011 disaster have expressed hopes of holding memorial services in their areas. The central government has also been prompted to urge related Cabinet members to visit the areas, according to Suga.

The government wishes to sponsor the ceremony mourning the megadisaster until the 10th anniversary in any case, Suga said. “It will be a natural course of action to decide what to do afterward while considering the situation.”

Although Suga said he believed that the decision to end the government-sponsored ceremony would be accepted by people in the disaster areas, some may press the government to continue the arrangement.

A senior government official suggested that the government will closely examine public opinion before making a final decision. “We have presented the government’s thinking. We’ll watch how people react.”

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