Tokyo: The southern Japanese island of Okinawa paid tribute on Saturday to more than 200,000 war dead, including Americans, on the 73rd anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa during World War II. Bereaved families and islanders along with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended a memorial service at the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman City, the site of the final stage of the battle that killed a quarter of Okinawa’s civilian population.
Following one of the deadliest battles of World War II in the Pacific, Okinawa was captured by US forces on June 23, 1945, nearly two months before Japan surrendered in the conflict. In 1972, 20 years after the US military occupation ended in most parts of Japan, Okinawa finally reverted to the country, however, US bases remain and continue to cause friction with local residents. Okinawa, which accounts for less than 1 per cent of Japan’s total land mass, hosts about 70 per cent of US military facilities across the country. Islanders have long complained about noise, accidents, environmental degradation and occasional crimes including rape committed by US troops. — dpa