Former Okinawa Governor Ota: When wars occur, governments send young people to battlefields first

Former Okinawa Governor Ota: When wars occur, governments send young people to battlefields first

The students listening to Ota at Mawashi High School in Naha on June 4.

June 10, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

In the lead up to the 69th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa, former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota who is director of the Ota Peace Research Institute, has delivered a lecture at Mawashi High School on June 4.

Ota talked about the Abe administration’s push to revise the Constitution of Japan to allow collective defense. He told students, “If there is another war in Japan, Okinawa will be the first to be attacked because it hosts military bases.” Ota went on to say, “Young people like you will be the first to be sent to battlefields.”

Ota said, "The Abe administration's revising of the Constitution of Japan matters to young people."

During the Battle of Okinawa, Ota was in second grade at Okinawa Teacher’s School and was sent to the battlefields to work for the Japanese Imperial Army. Ota said, “The Japanese Imperial Army collected many students from 21 schools during the war in Okinawa. They made younger children contribute to war efforts such as bringing ammunition, and forced them out of shelters. As a result, over 10,000 children younger than 14 years-old fell victim to the war.”

Ota also referred to the Japanese government’s move to station the Japan Self-Defense Forces in Yonaguni. He said, “Article three of the Self-Defense Forces Act state that what SDF members must protect is peace and security of the country, not the lives of each of the citizens.” Ota claimed, “What we learned from the Battle of Okinawa is that military forces don’t protect lives of citizens.”

The school’s student body president Seira Kishaba said, “I cannot dismiss the war as a thing of the past. The Japanese government is turning into a nation that can wage war. After listening to what Ota said, I think what we have to do as Okinawans who experienced the only ground battle in the Pacific War is to move forward with peace.”

(English translation by T&CT)

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