Pledges Not to Repeat Horror of War Must Be Renewed And Strengthened

Many residents of Okinawa were caught up in a horrific war. Such a thing must never be allowed to happen again. It is important to keep Okinawa’s history of suffering in mind and to protect peace and security.

The Okinawa Memorial Service for All War Dead was held in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, on Friday. It was Okinawa Memorial Day, an occasion to mourn the victims of the Battle of Okinawa during the Pacific War 78 years ago. Organized fighting by the former Japanese military is considered to have ended on June 23, 1945.

During the Battle of Okinawa, more than 200,000 Japanese and Americans died, including 94,000 ordinary citizens. In efforts to delay the invasion of mainland Japan, the former Japanese military continued to fight even after retreating to the southern part of Okinawa Island, and many residents were caught in the calamity of war.

Throughout history, war has irrationally ended lives and destroyed people’s ways of life. Reflecting on the suffering of the victims, pledges for peace must be renewed.

At the ceremony, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “We will work tirelessly to realize a world in which everyone can live in peace.”

Many people may have associated the Battle of Okinawa with the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine and prayed for the souls of all the victims.

The Okinawa prefectural government is surveying the underground headquarters built by the former Japanese military in the vicinity of Shuri Castle in Naha. After the former military blew it up, knowledge of its layout was lost. But through underground exploration, the prefectural government has identified the location of the “No. 1 tunnel” that provided access to the operation room and other rooms.

To convey the harsh reality of the war to future generations, the prefecture should consider preserving and opening the site to the public.

The security environment in the Nansei Islands, which include Okinawa Prefecture, is becoming increasingly severe. China has been regularly intruding into Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands, and it is stepping up military activities around Taiwan.

Strengthening defense capabilities in the Nansei Islands is an important issue. The Defense Ministry has established Ground Self-Defense Force camps on the islands of Miyakojima and Ishigakijima and deployed missile units there. In cooperation with U.S. forces in Japan, it is necessary to enhance deterrence.

Cooperation from the prefecture is essential to protect the security of Okinawa Prefecture.

However, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki stated at the ceremony that the strengthening of defense capabilities “is causing anxiety among the people of the prefecture.” The governor also opposes the deployment of long-range missiles by the Self-Defense Forces in the prefecture, saying that Okinawa could become a target for attack.

This view would be arguable if a threat did not already exist. But it is difficult to understand the argument that strengthening the defense force to prepare for a real and growing threat would instead increase tensions.

Of course, the current concentration of U.S. military facilities in Japan in Okinawa Prefecture must be corrected as soon as possible. The central government should steadily promote the consolidation and downsizing of U.S. bases, including the relocation of Futenma Air Station.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2023)