NAHA -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's speech in which he emphasized he would "make an all-out effort" to reduce the prefecture's burden of hosting U.S. military bases drew fierce protests from participants at a June 23 ceremony to mark the 74th year since the end of the Battle of Okinawa.
Abe's speech sparked a huge outcry such as, "That's a lie," and, "We don't need just words," showing local residents' strong opposition to the national government forcibly proceeding with reclamation work for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago.
Participants have continued to raise their voices in protest every year at the annual ceremony during Abe's speech since late Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga demanded in a 2015 peace declaration that the central government abandon the relocation of the base within Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa.
Onaga, who passed away in August 2018, became governor in 2014 by winning the support of the many Okinawa residents and political forces who were opposed to the relocation.
Abe has been attending the ceremony for seven consecutive years since 2013, but once again he mentioned nothing about the U.S. base relocation from Futenma to Henoko.
A prefectural assembly member who attended the ceremony stated, "Abe's speech is pretty much the same every year. Participants should keep quiet out of respect for the victims under normal circumstances. However, locals have no choice but to raise their voices considering the current situation in Okinawa."
A 20-year-old university student from the town of Nishihara commented, "Though the prime minister showed off his efforts to reduce the burden (of hosting U.S. bases), he made no reference to the issue in Henoko, and I felt he was sidestepping the matter."
(Japanese original by Takayasu Endo, Naha Bureau)