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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Speech by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on the occasion of the commemoration ceremony for the 40th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japan

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

[Provisional Translation]

Today, in the presence of numerous guests from both Japan and overseas, it is of tremendous significance and a source of great pleasure, not only for the people of Okinawa Prefecture but for the entire nation, that we are able to hold this large-scale commemoration ceremony for the 40th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japan jointly with the government of Okinawa Prefecture.

May 15, 1972. Today marks exactly the passage of 40 years since that formal and historic day when Okinawa was reverted to Japan.

We must ensure, first and foremost, that May 15 is a day on which we renew our "resolve for remembrance and peace." The precious lives of countless people that were lost in the Second World War. The unspoken hardship and suffering of the people of Okinawa Prefecture who experienced long years of occupation even after the war. The achievements of our predecessors, who stood stoic and firm in the face of such suffering, as they continued to seek a peaceful and prosperous future for Okinawa. These are the things that we must never forget and must continue to bear uppermost and steadfastly in our thoughts.

May 15 is also a day on which we pay tribute to the efforts made by the people of Okinawa to date, and when all people renew their spirit of solidarity with Okinawa. During the 40 years since reversion, thanks to the tireless efforts of the people of the prefecture, Okinawa has succeeded in overcoming many difficulties and has continued to push forward with dynamic development. The central government for its part has endeavored to support the people of the prefecture in their efforts, through the implementation of four successive plans for the promotion and development of Okinawa and various other special measures. There is no doubt that the combination of these measures by the people of Okinawa and the government has resulted in the steady development of social capital and a significant rise in living standards over the past 40 years.

May 15 is, furthermore, a day on which to focus our thoughts on the future of Okinawa. We are all living in a period of historic change, where the center of global activity is now shifting to the Asia-Pacific region. For Okinawa, situated as the gateway to the Asia-Pacific, this changing global focus signifies potential for new development in the prefecture. Okinawa has a rich natural environment and warm climate. It has a unique culture, formed against the backdrop of the illustrious history of the Ryukyus. It is brimming with vitality, with the youngest population in all of Japan. Okinawa also boasts an overseas network of uchinanchu, or persons of Okinawan ancestry, who are active on the global stage. By harnessing all these latent strengths Okinawa's radiance and sparkle will continue to further increase. This is the era that Okinawa is now looking to welcome.

Already tourism and information and communications technologies are driving the Okinawa economy. Naha Airport has grown to become the third largest international logistics hub in Japan today. In all aspects Okinawa is leading the way in national efforts to achieve the Rebirth of Japan.

"Okinawa as the frontier of Japan."-This is my hope and one that is already coming to fruition, backed by the actual emergence of various development "seeds." It is the responsibility of our generation to ensure that those seeds are tended diligently, ensuring that Okinawa truly becomes a regional cornerstone, acting as a "bridge between nations" in the 21st century, and one that will lead to comprehensive regional development. One of the greatest priority challenges for my cabinet is to ensure that Okinawa's potential is given free reign and that the burden of the military bases is steadily reduced, thus leading to a peaceful and prosperous future for the prefecture.

Of greatest importance as we seek to resolve the various challenges that Okinawa currently faces is to listen earnestly to the voices of the people of Okinawa.

The new establishment of block grants, which provide a high degree of flexibility. The greatest ever increase in budget allocation for the promotion and development of Okinawa. A variety of special taxation measures. These are just some of the outcomes of the Government's attempt to reflect to the maximum degree the wishes of Okinawa.

In addition, laws that set forth new measures for the promotion and development of Okinawa and the effective utilization of land vacated by military bases have been unanimously passed in the current session of the Diet. These laws are epoch-making in that they emphasize the initiative of Okinawa. Based on the basic plan that is based on the laws that have been determined by the Government, today Okinawa Prefecture has completed and approved the Plan for the Promotion and Development of Okinawa. I have just recently been presented with this brand-new plan by Governor Nakaima. The Government will also make every effort to ensure the realization of the plan.

Furthermore, in addition to the steady implementation of the promotion and development plan, the Government will give consideration in the fiscal 2013 budget formulation process concerning the allocation of financial resources for a second runway at Naha Airport, and will promote the prompt implementation of this project. We will also continue to cooperate with the prefecture in the necessary surveys and considerations relating to transport infrastructure, including railways and orbital roads. Moreover, the Government has decided to hand over the major facilities of Okinawa Commemorative National Government Park, including Shurijo Castle Park, to the administration of the prefecture by around fiscal 2018 and consultations to achieve this handover will be initiated.

In these various ways, Okinawa is seeking to engage independently in new development that will lead to prosperity. For our part, the Government will work hand-in-hand with the prefecture in various sectors, including medicine, the environment and human resources development, providing our support towards the development of an independent economic base and the realization of an exemplary society, filled with a charm and kindness that are distinctly Okinawan. In this way we will ensure that the dream of Okinawa as a significant frontier of Japan is transformed into a reality.

As well as working to achieve the promotion and development of Okinawa, it is the fundamental mission of the national government to ensure the safety of our people, including the people of Okinawa. While the role played by the Japan-U.S. security arrangements continues to be of importance, given the ever-increasing challenges in the security environment in the regions surrounding Japan, I am duly aware of the excessive    burden placed on the people of Okinawa by the concentration of U.S. bases in the prefecture. I reiterate my pledge to reduce in the near term the burden imposed by military bases on Okinawa in specific ways that are apparent for everyone to see, while maintaining deterrent capabilities.

A situation in which the Futenma Air Station becomes fixed in its current location must absolutely be avoided. Under this basic premise, the governments of Japan and the United States recently agreed to separate the issue of the relocation of the Futenma Air Station from the issues of the relocation of U.S. marines to Guam and the land returns south of Kadena. In addition, we have specified land that can be returned prior to the relocation of the Marine Corps outside the country and also land that can be returned in the very near term. These efforts should lead to a reduction in the burden imposed by military bases as "specific outcomes that are apparent for everyone to see."

Prior to this day of commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa, from the end of April I visited the United States, where President Barack Obama and I announced Japan-U.S. Joint Statement, "A Shared Vision for the Future." This document confirms from a broad perspective the contemporary significance of the Japan-U.S. alliance and the future long-term modalities for Japan-U.S. relations as a means of achieving peace and stability for the Asia-Pacific region, including Okinawa, and the world. I will seek to ensure that such joint efforts by Japan and the United States continue to achieve results surely and steadily into the future, which will certainly lead to the reduction of the burden on Okinawa.

We now stand forty years on from the reversion of Okinawa. It is Okinawa that will be the driving force for Japan as a whole, creating a role for itself at the forefront of the Asia-Pacific era. It is we who are responsible for creating this future.

There is no doubt that the aspirations of the people of Okinawa for peace, and their globally-minded spirit as a "bridge between nations" will be a tremendous asset in the development and growth of Okinawa in the 21st century. It is precisely because we are now continuing to face the challenges of recovery and reconstruction from the unprecedented damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and seeking to achieve the rebirth of the Japanese economy that we look to Okinawa with great expectations. I believe that the further development and growth of Okinawa will contribute to the development of Japan and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.

I would like to close my speech by reiterating my prayer for the peace and development of Okinawa, Japan and the entire world.

May 15, 2012
Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of Japan

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