Biden: U.S. Honored to Have Helped Japan After Tsunami

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2011 — Human­i­tar­i­an aid has flowed both ways between the Unit­ed States and Japan, and Amer­i­can aid to Japan fol­low­ing the March 11 earth­quake and tsuna­mi is just the lat­est exam­ple of two close allies work­ing togeth­er, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden said in Japan today.

Biden vis­it­ed the Sendai Air­port, which was re-opened by U.S forces in the days and weeks fol­low­ing the tsuna­mi. The air­port was flood­ed to the sec­ond lev­el, and the run­ways and taxi­ways were clogged with debris, vehi­cles and bod­ies. The earth­quake and result­ing tsuna­mi killed more than 20,000 peo­ple in Japan, and destroyed more than 125,000 buildings. 

Still, the ter­mi­nal build­ing was one of the few build­ings left inhab­it­able, and more than 1,000 refugees lived above the waterline. 

The Japan­ese peo­ple already have come a long way since the dis­as­ter, Biden said, and Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers rushed to help. “As I stand here at this air­port, I am proud … that our mil­i­tary was giv­en the priv­i­lege of being able to join your forces,” he said, “and with­in a week of the earth­quake, able to re-open the run­way that enabled the arrival of hun­dreds of relief work­ers and more than 2 mil­lion tons of human­i­tar­i­an supplies.” 

A few weeks lat­er, Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers were able to help in open­ing the air­port to com­mer­cial flights. 

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple are also proud and hon­ored by the way they have been able to assist,” Biden said. “They’re proud to con­tin­ue doing what­ev­er you would like us to as you rebuild. And that’s because of a sim­ple propo­si­tion. It’s not because of gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment or mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tions. It’s because of a gen­uine affec­tion the Amer­i­can peo­ple [have] for the Japan­ese people.” 

With­in hours of the dis­as­ter, the Unit­ed States launched Oper­a­tion Tomodachi, which Biden said was the sin­gle largest human­i­tar­i­an relief effort in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. “It was done with­out hav­ing to con­vince the Amer­i­can peo­ple of any­thing,” he said. “It was spon­ta­neous. It’s because of the affec­tion for the peo­ple … of Japan. That’s the build­ing block upon which this part­ner­ship and alliance of ours is built.” 

A total of 20 U.S. Navy ships, 140 U.S. air­craft and almost 20,000 Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers par­tic­i­pat­ed in Oper­a­tion Tomodachi. 

The Unit­ed States is a Pacif­ic pow­er, Biden said, and Japan is one of the clos­est allies in the region. 

“America’s com­mit­ment to our friend and ally Japan extends well beyond sup­port in times of need and reflects the pro­found impor­tance Amer­i­ca places on our rela­tion­ship with Japan and our deep ties to this region,” Biden said. “America’s focus on this crit­i­cal region will only grow in the years to come — as Asia plays an ever increas­ing role in the glob­al econ­o­my and inter­na­tion­al affairs.” 

When dis­as­ter strikes in the world, Japan always is one of the first coun­tries to offer aid and assis­tance, Biden noted. 

“When the Indi­an Ocean tsuna­mi left hun­dreds of thou­sands dead or home­less through­out the region, when the earth­quake lev­eled Port-au-Prince in Haiti, when flood waters rav­aged Pak­istan, when Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na cut a dev­as­tat­ing swath through America’s Gulf Coast, in every one of those instances, … the peo­ple of Japan have lent a hand,” he said. 

As Japan faces its own dif­fi­cult time, Amer­i­cans will stand by Japan for as long as it takes, the vice pres­i­dent said. 

“My vis­it today is to rein­force and reassert that com­mit­ment of an ally to an ally, a friend to a friend,” he added. 

Many in the world are bet­ting on the decline of Amer­i­ca and the inabil­i­ty of Japan to rise again, Biden point­ed out. 

“They are mak­ing a very bad bet,” he said. “Both [nations] will con­tin­ue to grow and pros­per. Togeth­er, we are a sig­nif­i­cant part of the engine that will allow the world to recover.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

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