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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Memorial Ceremony to Commemorate the Fallen on the 71st Anniversary of the End of the Battle of Okinawa

Thursday, June 23, 2016

[Provisional Translation]

At the opening of this Memorial Ceremony to Commemorate the Fallen on the 71st Anniversary of the End of the Battle of Okinawa, I wish to convey my feelings of sincere mourning for the souls of those who perished on the battlefields, and for the souls of those who died suffering the ravages of war during the Battle of Okinawa.  I also extend my deepest condolences to the bereaved families of the war dead.

Seventy-one years ago, Okinawa was the scene of a dreadful ground battle.  Some 200,000 people lost their precious lives, with innocent members of the general public and children with futures still ahead of them tragically becoming victims.  Okinawa’s beautiful sea, natural splendor, and rich culture were mercilessly destroyed.  When I think of the regret of the fallen whose names are engraved on the Cornerstone of Peace, the immeasurable grief of those who survived, and the deep and unhealing wounds Okinawa sustained, I am at a loss to do anything other than bow my head.

People lost their lives for war while worrying about the fate of their homeland and wishing for the happiness of the families they loved.  The peace and prosperity we now enjoy exist atop those sacrifices that can never be undone and atop the history of hardship and suffering that Okinawa later endured.  Today, we silently close our eyes and ponder these things, asking ourselves where we have come from.  It is a day on which we, humbly facing the past, renew our vow to continue our ceaseless efforts to bring about a peaceful world.

At the same time, we must take particular note of the fact that for more than 70 years since the end of the war, even to the present day, Okinawa has borne a heavy impact of U.S. military bases.  We will continue to work as a nation on mitigating the impact of the bases, addressing them one by one.

Against this backdrop, I feel extreme indignation at the recent heinous and absolutely despicable incidents committed by a person related to U.S. forces.  I conveyed directly to the President of the United States that the Japanese people have been dealt a huge shock and I lodged a strong protest.  I also urged strict actions, including effective measures to prevent recurrences.  Japan and the United States have agreed to undertake a review of SOFA implementation practices related to the U.S. civilian component, and we are now engaged in intensified negotiations with the United States.  The Japanese government, which bears the responsibility of protecting the lives and property of the Japanese citizens, will promptly set out measures so that such tragic crimes are never repeated.

Okinawa, which is situated as Japan’s gateway to Asia and is also a new hub of technological innovation, is poised to fully harness its great advantages and unbounded potential and is now about to achieve dramatic development.  For the sake of the generation alive at this moment and for the sake of generations alive in years to come, we will devote our utmost efforts to the development of Okinawa and carve out a bright future.  I firmly believe that in doing so we will live up to the expectations of the souls of the war dead.

I will conclude my address by praying that the souls of those who lost their lives here may rest in peace and by offering my sincere wishes for the peace of the bereaved families of the war dead.

June 23, 2016
Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan

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