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Japanese Pray for Peace on 75th Anniversary of Battle of Okinawa

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Residents on Okinawa prayed for peace and remembered lost loved ones on Tuesday on the 75th anniversary of the end of one of WWII’s deadliest conflicts, the Battle of Okinawa.

At the ceremony held on the southern Japanese island to honor the more than 200,000 who died in the fighting near the war’s end, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said accounts of the tragedy must be remembered accurately and handed down to younger generations.

Fear and economic devastation in recent months have divided societies, Tamaki said. That makes tolerance, mutual trust and cooperation more important than ever, he said.

“We must gather our wisdom and push forward to achieve nuclear weapons ban, war renouncement and lasting peace,” Tamaki said.

Okinawa was Japan’s only home battleground in WWII, and the island remained under U.S. occupation for 20 years longer than the rest of Japan, until 1972.

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Many Okinawans believe the post-World War II Japan-U.S. security alliance was built on their sacrifices during the war.

Adding to friction over the American troops on the island are centuries-old tensions between Okinawa and the Japanese mainland, which annexed the islands, formerly the independent kingdom of the Ryukus, in 1879.

One major disagreement is over a decades-old plan to relocate a U.S. Marine Corps air station from the densely populated Futenma area in southern Okinawa to the less-crowded Henoko region on the east coast.

Many Okinawans want the air station to be moved off the island entirely.

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Tamaki renewed his pledge Tuesday to block the relocation.

Tuesday’s ceremony was significantly scaled down. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking remotely from Tokyo, said the government would do its utmost to lighten Okinawa’s burden. He did not elaborate.

Scenic Okinawa, ideally located as an Asian gateway, has “immeasurable” potential for future growth, he said, promising more government support.

Tuesday also marks the 60th anniversary of the enactment of the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

President Donald Trump has pushed Japan and South Korea both to increase spending to reduce costs for the U.S. for its security presence in the region.

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Foreign Minister Toshiitsu Motegi told reporters on Tuesday in Tokyo that the Japan-U.S. alliance today is “stronger than ever and indispensable.”

Japan wants to maintain close cooperation, he said, and will consider ways to do more to strengthen its defense capabilities as a U.S. ally.


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