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Address by Prime Minister Naoto Kan at the Memorial Ceremony to Commemorate the Fallen on the 66th Anniversary of the End of the Battle of Okinawa

[Provisional Translation]

At the opening of the 2011 Memorial Ceremony to Commemorate the Fallen on the Anniversary of the End of the Battle of Okinawa, I express my feelings of sincere mourning for the souls of the war dead.

During the last war, the largest ground battle in Japan took place here in Okinawa, with a great many losing their precious lives in this hard-fought battle. Now, as we once again consider the indescribable difficulties faced by the Okinawan people, we cannot help but be filled with deep emotion. I also feel particularly profoundly moved as we commemorate this anniversary amidst the unprecedented challenges of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the accidents at the nuclear power station. It goes without saying that we must never again experience a horrific war. Here today I bear in mind that in every era, the duty of the government is to protect human dignity and human life.

This year marks the 66th anniversary of the end of the war. Since the war, Okinawa has overcome great sorrow to rise once again and achieve robust development. Yet today, with US military bases concentrated in Okinawa, a great burden is being placed on the Okinawan people. It is a matter of deep regret that even though 39 years have passed since Okinawa's reversion to Japan, only Okinawa has experienced delays in the lessening of its burden. In the future, I will make my greatest possible efforts towards measures to reduce the burden and eliminate the risks borne by Okinawa related to the US military bases.

Having fostered its own unique culture, Okinawa is a region of which Japan can be proud. Given the natural abundance with which it has been blessed, its ongoing population growth brought about by the highest birth rate in Japan, and its geographical advantage in its proximity to a booming Asia, Okinawa is fully poised to enjoy even greater dramatic potential.

This fiscal year is the final year of the decade-long Okinawa Promotion Plan. The government is resolutely engaged in wrapping up the current Okinawa Promotion Plan. Furthermore, making the greatest possible use of Okinawa's advantages and potential, I intend to undertake a new Okinawa Promotion Policy that can contribute not only to Okinawa's self-reliant development, but also to the development of Japan and the Asia-Pacific region. I will bring this about while listening to the voices of the local people regarding various systems, including block grants, support for planning in which Okinawa Prefecture serves as the main actor, enactment of a law regarding the use of military base sites returned to Japan, and a review of national administrative entities' local agencies.

The peace and prosperity of present-day Japan has been built upon the noble sacrifices of the war dead. Japan vows to uphold its pledge not to engage in war, never again plunging its people into the misery of war. And, as a member of the international community, Japan will pursue unceasingly the realization of international peace.

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

June 23, 2011
Naoto Kan
Prime Minister