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Peace Declaration by Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga

Gov. Takeshi Onaga reads out the peace declaration during a ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, on June 23, 2016, to mark the 71st anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa. (Mainichi)

After 71 years, another summer has come to Okinawa where the last ground battle of the Pacific War was fought. The unprecedentedly fierce battle that heavily damaged Okinawa completely changed the islands' peaceful, richly green scenery, destroyed most of its valuable cultural heritages, and claimed over 200,000 irreplaceable lives. We cannot forget, even after a long time, the inconceivable absurdity and cruelty of the war our people experienced.

These tragic experiences of war truly explain the Okinawan heart that longs for peace.

After the war, attaching importance to our mentality of seeking peace, we laid economic foundations for a peaceful life for Okinawa's people, and earnestly walked a path of reconstruction and development.

Even 71 years after the end of the war, however, vast U.S. military bases still lie before us. Approximately 74% of the facilities exclusively used by the U.S. Forces Japan are concentrated on Okinawa, which accounts for only 0.6% of the total land mass of Japan.

We have repeatedly seen incidents and accidents over a long time precisely because of the presence of these extensive U.S. military bases. The people of Okinawa are greatly shocked, concerned, and resentful over this most recent inhumane and brutal incident.

The U.S. military base issues in Okinawa are security issues for our country. The burden of the Japan-U.S. security arrangements, therefore, should be shouldered by Japanese nationals as a whole.

Are freedom, equality, human rights, and democracy, guaranteed under the Japanese Constitution, equally assured for the people of Okinawa who have no choice but to live with the burdens of both the Japan-U.S. security arrangements and the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement?

In order also to establish a basis for peace in a real sense, we strongly urge both the Japanese and U.S. governments not to postpone efforts in reducing the excessive military base burden, but to immediately realize their mitigation by fundamentally revising the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement as well as realigning and reducing the U.S. bases, and reducing the number of Marines.

We would like to emphasize that the plan to relocate MCAS Futenma to Henoko cannot gain understanding from the Okinawan people. We cannot tolerate at all the viewpoint that the current plan is the only solution.

There also exist many serious challenges in the world such as poverty, starvation, discrimination and oppression, all of which threaten lives and fundamental human rights.

It is important for every one of us in every country to further cooperate and to make efforts to create and maintain peace in order to solve these issues and to realize lasting peace.

In the past, our ancestors actively conducted trades with Asia and Japan. Inheriting our ancestors' spirit engraved on the bell of the Bankoku Shinryo, or a bridge between nations, we will continue to seek all the more to become a bridge between the Asia-Pacific region and Japan in order to proactively promote personal, cultural, and economic exchanges.

We, who live in Okinawa where the experiences of war have taken root, have a great responsibility to pass down what we experienced in the past to future generations, and to play our part for the realization of peace.

On this day, which marks the anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, we offer our most sincere and heartfelt prayers to the souls of all those who lost their lives during the war. With the steadfast, peace-seeking mind of Okinawa as a foundation, we hereby pledge to devote our efforts in creating an affluence of which we can be proud, for our children and our grandchildren who will lead the future. We will seek to realize enduring peace.

June 23, 2016

Takeshi Onaga

Governor of Okinawa Prefecture

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