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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 72nd Anniversary of the End of the Battle of Okinawa

Friday, June 23, 2017

[Provisional translation]

    As we conduct this Memorial Ceremony to Commemorate the Fallen on the 72nd 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.

    During World War II, Okinawa was the scene of the fiercest ground battle in Japan. People’s tranquil lives were transformed into scenes of carnage, with 200,000 precious lives lost and the rich natural environment reduced to ashes. Many people perished as they worried anxiously about the fate of their family members, while the bright futures of children who should have led bountiful lives and the dreams and hopes of many young people were also tragically wrested away. It pains me greatly to think of the regret of the many fallen whose names are engraved on the Cornerstone of Peace.

    Even today, 72 years since the Battle of Okinawa, the intense grief of the bereaved family members who lost their beloved relatives never heals. I wish to bow my head in silence as I give profound consideration to this and reflect on the fact that the peace and prosperity we now enjoy rests atop the Okinawan people’s history of suffering and hardship from misery unable to be expressed in words.

    Since the end of the war, Japan has consistently and earnestly walked the path of a nation that values peace. The horrors of war must never be repeated. I vow once more to the souls here that we will be tireless in our efforts to carry out this resolute commitment and realize a world in which all people can live in a spiritually rich manner.

    For many years, the concentration of US military bases has heavily impacted the people of Okinawa. The current situation is absolutely not permissible. In order to mitigate the impact of the U.S. forces, the government is determined to deliver results one by one in a steady manner.

    This past December, through the efforts of all the parties concerned over 20 years, we realized the return of a major portion of the Northern Training Area, which accounts for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. facilities and areas in Okinawa, the largest single return of land since the reversion of Okinawa. Going forward, the government will provide maximum support on the use of the returned land, with a view to promoting regional development, while listening to the voices of the local people.

    We will continue to do everything we can. We will make every effort to mitigate impact on Okinawa.

    Okinawa has cultivated a rich culture amidst its stunning natural scenery. It is situated as a gateway to a growing Asia and has the highest birthrate in Japan. The number of people who visit Okinawa drawn to its countless points of attraction and the number of foreign cruise ships calling at its ports have grown remarkably in recent years. Okinawa is poised to fully harness those advantages and that potential and achieve dramatic development. In order to carve out a bright future for Okinawa, which is brimming with possibilities, I will lead the efforts to further promote the development of Okinawa.

    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.

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