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Okinawa war dead remembrance ceremony participants discomfited at PM Abe's presence

Speaking at a ceremony in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, to remember Okinawa's war dead, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized his intention to reduce Okinawa's U.S. military base hosting burden, and to revise the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement. He did not mention the proposed transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the city of Nago's Henoko Bay, however -- a silence that drew mixed reactions.

"Does (Abe) truly intend to solve the problem of U.S. military bases in Okinawa?" asked Eikichi Uehara , 72, an unemployed resident of Naha, who added, "I felt very uncomfortable" that Abe did not mention the proposed airbase transfer.

The majority of land in Uehara's hometown -- formerly the village of Oroku and now part of the prefectural capital Naha -- was forcibly confiscated by the U.S. military after the war, and turned into bases. Although the land has since been returned, Uehara was born and raised just next to a base fence.

"The presence of the base meant that the reconstruction (of the Oroku district) was delayed," he noted, and then added with emphasis, "I do not want to see any further bases constructed in Okinawa."

Meanwhile, Moriyuki Teruya -- deputy chair of the Liberal Democratic Party's Okinawa prefectural chapter -- stated, "As a resident of Okinawa Prefecture, I'd like to sincerely praise (the prime minister's) declaration that he will not allow this sort of incident (the murder of an Okinawa woman by a former Marine) ever to occur again."

"Making a political statement by referring to the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement is unusual at this type of remembrance ceremony," Teruya added. "I think that the prime minister made his strong stance quite clear."

Immediately after Abe finished speaking, angry shouts could be heard from the crowd, including, "Change the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement!" and "Go home!"

Also, just before Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga issued a peace declaration during the ceremony -- which included a call for reducing U.S. Marine forces in the prefecture -- people in the crowd could be heard shouting, "Don't use (this ceremony) for political gain!"

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