Okinawans vie for peace ahead of 50th anniversary of return to Japan

Tokyo, May 14 (EFE).- About 1,000 people attended a marc in Okinawa on Saturday, calling for peace and the scaling down of American military bases in the province a day before the 50th anniversary of its return to Japan on May 15, 1972.

The nine-km march was the first in three years after the Covid-19 pandemic that had halted the annual event.

It began near the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the middle of a residential area in Ginowan in the island prefecture of southwestern Japan.

The rain did not stop the protesters, who wore bands with messages such as “Okinawa without bases,” a popular demand of island residents since the US handed over the territory to Japan after 27 years of colonial rule at the end of World War II.

Demonstrations have been taking place every year around May 15 since 1978.

The prefecture represents 0.6 percent of the national territory and is geographically closer to Taiwan than Tokyo.

Manabu Oshiro, a resident of the town of Itoman who has participated in the annual event about 30 times, joined the demonstration to express his displeasure over the current situation on the island.

“By raising my voice (against the military burden) in the milestone year, I want to make the current situation in Okinawa known,” Oshiro told the Kyodo news agency.

The Battle of Okinawa was the only ground invasion of the Japanese mainland by the US during World War II.

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 four Okinawans, around 94,000.

Okinawan authorities usually use the anniversary to underscore the military burden of the archipelago, home to around 75 percent of the military facilities in Japan.

The government has plans to relocate one of the biggest US bases in the area to Nago city in Henoko Bay, a less populated area within Okinawa Prefecture.

Okinawan authorities took the case to several courts to overturn the project as it posed a threat to the environment and could be detrimental to residents.

The Supreme Court ruled in Tokyo’s favor in 2016.

The majority of Okinawans are opposed to shifting the Futenma base from its present location to another in the same prefecture. They seek its relocation outside of the island.

On Sunday, two simultaneous commemorative ceremonies will take place in Okinawa and Tokyo to mark the 50th anniversary of the territory’s return to Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will attend the Okinawa event. EFE


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