Okinawa marks anniversary of return to Japanese rule with peace march

People in Japan's southern prefecture of Okinawa have held an annual peace march to mark the 52nd anniversary of the prefecture's return to Japan from postwar US rule.

Okinawa was returned on May 15, 1972. More than half a century on, about 70 percent of US military facilities in Japan are still located in the prefecture.

At the time of its return, residents wanted US facilities to be reduced to at least the same level as in other parts of the country, but this has yet to be realized.

In Ishigaki city, residents' groups and labor unions have staged a peace march on this day every year calling for an Okinawa that is free of bases.

Japan's government opened a Ground Self-Defense Force base on the island in March last year to strengthen the defense of the country's southwestern islands.

On Wednesday, some 50 people marched about 9.4 kilometers through the city. They voiced opposition to the deployment of a missile unit in the area.

One of the march organizers, Hateruma Tadashi, said he remains firmly opposed to the deployment of the missile unit. He added that he will continue to speak out that peace is most important, for their children's sake.

A local woman in her 50s said she wanted to do what she can so that children can inherit a region without war.

A local man in his 80s said the Battle of Okinawa must not be forgotten. He said he wanted people to know that he remains unsatisfied about the return 52 years ago.