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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Address by the Prime Minister for the Memorial Ceremony to Commemorate the Fallen on the 76th Anniversary of the End of the Battle of Okinawa

June 23, 2021

[Provisional translation]
As we conduct this Memorial Ceremony to Commemorate the Fallen on the 76th Anniversary of the End of the Battle of Okinawa, I wish to express my heartfelt mourning for the souls of those who perished on the battlefields as well as those who died suffering the ravages of war during the Battle of Okinawa.
During World War II, Okinawa was the scene of a dreadful ground battle, with some 200,000 people losing their precious lives, including innocent civilians. The quiet lives of the people were suddenly drawn into the vortex of war, and Okinawa’s natural beauty and rich culture, both sources of great pride, were mercilessly destroyed. There were also unbearable instances such as the Tsushima Maru incident, in which a great number of children’s lives were lost.
The peace and prosperity we now enjoy 76 years since the Battle of Okinawa was built upon the precious lives of the victims and the Okinawan people’s history of hardship that is beyond description. We who are alive at this moment will etch deeply into our hearts and never forget the regret of those whose names are engraved on the Cornerstone of Peace, the indescribable grief and suffering of the survivors, and the deep and unhealing wounds Okinawa sustained.
Since the end of the war, Japan has consistently, earnestly, and single-mindedly walked the path of a nation that values peace. I vow once more to the souls here that we will be tireless in our efforts to carry out our resolute commitment never to repeat the horrors of war and to realize a world in which all people anywhere on the globe can live in a peaceful and spiritually rich manner.
For many years, the concentration of U.S. military bases has heavily impacted the people of Okinawa. The current situation absolutely must be changed.
Taking that thought to heart, I have spoken directly with many people in Okinawa until now and listened to their candid views regarding the impact of U.S. forces, and I have done my utmost to produce concrete results for Okinawa.
In 2016, we realized the return of a major portion of the Northern Training Area. We are now moving forward with procedures for the northern part of Okinawa Island, including that site, and Iriomote Island to be registered as a World Natural Heritage Site.
At the site of the West Futenma Housing Area returned in 2018, preparations to develop a base for health and medical care are being advanced, aiming at expanding high-level medical treatment and research functions and improving local medical care, as a precedent for the use of former base sites in the future.
To lessen the impact of the U.S. forces, the Government continues to be determined to deliver results one by one in a steady manner, under the principle of “doing everything possible.”
Blessed with natural beauty and situated as a gateway to Asia, Okinawa enjoys immeasurable advantages and potential. As the effects of COVID-19 become prolonged, the Government will comprehensively prevent infections and administer vaccines. I will stand at the fore and work to promote Okinawa together with you so that Okinawa overcomes this hardship and, making use of the second runway at Naha Airport completed last year and Nago Higashi Road, which will open completely to traffic at the end of July, assumes the position of a bridge to the world as “The Bridge of Nations” of the 21st century.
Next May, we will reach the major milestone of the 50th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan. Aiming at Okinawa’s further development, we will faithfully advance our discussions on what the promotion of Okinawa should look like after the expiration of the existing Act on Special Measures for the Promotion and 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 happiness of the bereaved families of the war dead.
SUGA Yoshihide
Prime Minister of Japan
June 23, 2021

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