Tokyo, Jun 23 (efe-epa).- The Japanese archipelago of Okinawa on Tuesday held low-key acts amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the fierce battle between the United States and Japan during the Second World War, which claimed the lives of 200,000, half of them civilians.
The annual ceremony was held at the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, a town in the southern part of the main island of Okinawa where the battle ended, and only those living in the prefecture itself were able to attend, local news agency Kyodo reported.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the mayors of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and a United Nations representative were also scheduled to attend the event but restrictions imposed in the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19 meant that they could only be present through video messages sent for the occasion.
The Battle of Okinawa was the only ground invasion of the Japanese mainland by the US during World War II and it took place months before Japan surrendered following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The bloody battle lasted three months and killed one out of every four Okinawan citizens, around 94,000 in total.
Okinawan authorities usually use the anniversary as an opportunity to underscore the burden on the small archipelago, which is home to around 75 percent of the military facilities in Japan.
Military bases, which occupy one-fifth of the area of the main island, were built on land expropriated during the American occupation, which lasted until 1972, two decades longer than in the rest of the Asian country.
Shinzo Abe’s administration has made plans to relocate one of the biggest US bases in the area to Nago city in Henoko Bay, in a less populated area, but also within Okinawa Prefecture.
Okinawan authorities took the case to several courts to try to overturn the project with legal arguments based on on the grounds that it posed a threat to the area’s environment and might prove to be detrimental to the local population, but Japan’s Supreme Court ruled in Tokyo’s favor in 2016.
A majority of citizens of Okinawa are opposed to the relocation of the Futenma base from its present location and have asked that it be moved outside its territory.
The political bloc opposed to the relocation retained a majority in the prefectural assembly elections held earlier this month. EFE-EPA