Okinawa residents prayed for peace and remembered loved ones on Tuesday as they commemorated the 75th anniversary of the end of one of the deadliest battles of World War II, the Battle of Okinawa.
At the ceremony on the Japanese island to honor the more than 200,000 who died in the fighting near the end of the war, Okinawan Governor Denny Tamaki said the accounts of the tragedy must be accurately remembered and transmitted to younger generations.
“We must gather our wisdom and move forward to achieve the prohibition of nuclear weapons, the renunciation of war and lasting peace,” said Tamaki.
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Okinawa was Japan’s only home battleground in World War II, and the island remained under U.S. occupation for 20 years longer than the rest of Japan, until 1972.
Resentment over a strong and continuing presence of US troops is deep, with more than half of the approximately 50,000 US troops in Japan based on a bilateral security treaty.
Many Okinawans believe that the Japan-US security alliance. USA Post-World War II he relied on his sacrifices during the war and after Japan’s surrender in 1945, when US troops confiscated Okinawa land for their bases.
Okinawa has called on the central government to do more to reduce the burden on numerous US military installations, but changes have come slowly. Many Okinawans also want a revision of the Status of Forces Agreement with the United States, which grants certain legal privileges to US military personnel.
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Okinawans have suffered crime, pollution and noise related to the US base in the 75 years since the end of the war, Tamaki said.
“Since the end of the war, even when Okinawa was deprived of human rights and self-government under the occupation of the United States, we have consistently walked the path of reconstruction and development while protecting our culture and the sincerity that we inherit from our ancestors. ” Tamaki said.
Adding to the friction over the US troops on the island are centuries-old tensions between Okinawa and the Japanese mainland, which annexed the islands, formerly the independent kingdom of the Ryukus, in 1879.
A big disagreement is over a decades-old plan to relocate a US Marine Corps air station. USA From the densely populated area of Futenma in southern Okinawa to Henoko’s less crowded region on the east coast. Many Okinawans want the air station to move entirely from the island and oppose the environmental damage caused by the construction of the new facility, which is already underway.
Tamaki renewed his promise Tuesday to protect the environment in Henoko and block the relocation.
Tuesday’s ceremony was curtailed significantly as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking remotely from Tokyo, said the government would do everything possible to lighten Okinawa’s burden. He did not elaborate. Scenic Okinawa, ideally positioned as an Asian gateway, has “immeasurable” potential for future growth, he said, promising more government support.
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Tuesday also marks the 60th anniversary of the enactment of the Japan-United States security treaty. While the alliance remains strong, President Trump has lobbied Japan and South Korea to increase their spending to cut costs for the United States because of their security presence in the region.
Foreign Minister Toshiitsu Motegi told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday that the alliance between Japan and the United States today is “stronger than ever and indispensable.” Japan wants to maintain close cooperation, he said, and will consider ways to do more to strengthen its defense capabilities as an ally of the United States.