Okinawans renew wishes for peace without foreign military bases as they remember the battle of Okinawa

About 6,500 Okinawans attended a memorial ceremony on June 24 in honor of the victims of the battle of Okinawa, the only ground battle on Japanese soil in WW II.

Addressing the ceremony in the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman City where the last battle took place 58 years ago, Governor Inamine Keiichi called for the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement to be revised, stressing that Okinawans have been bearing the excessive burden of hosting U.S. military bases.

A girl in the 5th grade of elementary school read her poem titled, "To river water and the sun", calling for river water and the sun to "persuade the world's people to promise not to fight anymore, not to kill anymore, and to build peace in the future."

Japanese Communist Party Lower House member Akamine Seiken attended the ceremony. Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro, who has forcibly enacted the wartime legislation and is promoting the strengthening of U.S. military bases in Okinawa, did not attend the ceremony for the first time since he became prime minister.

In front of "The Cornerstone of Peace" in the park on which the names of the battle victims are inscribed, Okinawans looked for the names of their loved ones, joined their hands in prayer, or offered flowers.

A 76-year-old women said, "No matter how many years have passed, I can never forget the war. I'm still scared to face a U.S. soldier. I want the bases to be removed as soon as possible."

U.S. military bases occupy about 20 percent of Okinawa's main island. Since the revelation of the rape of an Okinawan women by a U.S. Marine early this month, the demand is increasing for the removal of U.S. bases and a drastic review of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. (end)

Copyright (c) Japan Press Service Co., Ltd. All right reserved.