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Okinawa governor apologizes for joking 'I'm Zelenskyy' when taking seat at meeting

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki speaks at the beginning of the meeting of experts on the issue of U.S. military bases in the prefecture at the prefectural government building in the capital city Naha on May 25, 2022. (Mainichi/Nozomu Takeuchi)

NAHA -- Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki referred to himself as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy when taking a seat at a May 25 meeting of experts on the issue of U.S. military bases in the prefecture.

    "I'm Zelenskyy," he said, before he quickly took back the words, saying it was "a joke." Tamaki is expected to announce soon that he will be standing for reelection in the September Okinawa gubernatorial race, but his careless remark may invite criticism.

    He stated at the beginning of the meeting, "Although Okinawa and Ukraine are far apart, as 70% of U.S. military facilities are concentrated in Okinawa, we cannot overlook (the Russian invasion of Ukraine) from the perspective of sanctity of life and the danger of going to war. I strongly hope for the earliest possible restoration of peace with support from many countries."

    Tamaki apologized at a subsequent press conference, saying, "I would like to sincerely apologize for making a careless remark. I absolutely do not make light of the situation in Ukraine."

    (Japanese original by Nozomu Takeuchi, Naha Bureau)

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