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Japan's PM Heckled At World War II Event

  • VOA News

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offers flowers for the war dead during a memorial service of the Battle of Okinawa, at the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, in this photo taken by Kyodo, June 23, 2015.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offers flowers for the war dead during a memorial service of the Battle of Okinawa, at the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, in this photo taken by Kyodo, June 23, 2015.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was heckled Tuesday as he gave a speech to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa, one of World War II's bloodiest battles.

In a reflection of widespread local resentment at the U.S. military presence on Okinawa, members of the audience shouted "go home" and "stop lying" as the prime minister took the stage.

"I will stand at the forefront to move forward the development of Okinawa," said Abe, amid jeers from the crowd. "The people of Okinawa have carried the burden of concentration of the U.S. bases for the sake of national security."

Many Okinawans resent the presence of the tens of thousands of U.S. troops, citing the soldiers' behavior, noise pollution and the dangers of an aircraft crash on the densely populated island.

A plan to relocate the Futenma air base from its current heavily populated location to a sparsely populated coastal region is also unpopular with many locals.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who opposes the relocation plan, was greeted warmly as he spoke at Tuesday's commemoration at the Peace Memorial Park on the southern tip of Okinawa.

"We strongly ask the Japanese government to abort the relocation of Futenma base to Henoko, and we hope it would once again rethink the plans to relocate the U.S. military base within Okinawa," said Onaga.

Those in attendance at the ceremony also observed a moment of silence to remember the over 200,000 people who died in the Battle of Okinawa, which took place in the final months of World War II.

The 82-day battle resulted in a victory for the U.S.-led Allied forces, which lost over 10,000 troops. Around 80,000 Japanese soldiers also died, many of whom committed suicide by leaping off cliffs rather than surrender.

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