Dempsey Reaffirms U.S.-Japan Alliance at Earthquake Anniversary Event

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2012 — As the first anniver­sary of the earth­quake that dev­as­tat­ed Japan’s north­east region approach­es, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff yes­ter­day reaf­firmed the U.S.-Japan part­ner­ship, say­ing it grew stronger in the face of adver­si­ty.

“We have a say­ing: adver­si­ty doesn’t build char­ac­ter, it reveals it,” Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey said at a recep­tion at the Japan­ese Embassy here last night. The event was held to thank Amer­i­cans for their sup­port fol­low­ing the March 11, 2011, earth­quake and to high­light recon­struc­tion efforts.

“The char­ac­ter that has been revealed in the Japan­ese peo­ple and the Japan­ese defense forces — it’s prob­a­bly the best thing that could come out of that kind of dis­as­ter,” Dempsey said. The chair­man not­ed that, “while we rec­og­nize the good­ness that comes out of these shared tri­als, there also is the sad­ness of all the peo­ple lost.”

Dempsey thanked Japan­ese Ambas­sador Ichi­ro Fujisa­ki and the Japan­ese peo­ple for their endur­ing part­ner­ship and friend­ship, fol­low­ing a flutist play­ing the Star Span­gled Ban­ner and the show­ing of a video of the earth­quake and recon­struc­tion efforts.

“I have the real priv­i­lege of rep­re­sent­ing all the Amer­i­can armed forces and their fam­i­ly mem­bers who, real­ly on this day, just want to tell the Japan­ese peo­ple — our long-term part­ners and friends — that we are so proud of you, after going through that kind of dis­as­ter,” Dempsey said. “It’s hard to imag­ine, real­ly, the strength and resilience you have shown.”

The chair­man said he spoke ear­li­er this week with his Japan­ese coun­ter­part to express his con­do­lences for the earth­quake and reaf­firm the bilat­er­al part­ner­ship.

“It’s to all of you who have been involved in the Pacif­ic … that I will tell you, ‘thanks,’ ” he said. “And, to our Japan­ese broth­ers and sis­ters, we sim­ply say the word that best defines us in this moment, and that is, tomodachi.”

Tomodachi, or friend, is the name of a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion the U.S. and Japan­ese gov­ern­ments cre­at­ed fol­low­ing “Oper­a­tion Tomodachi,” the U.S.-Japanese mil­i­tary relief efforts fol­low­ing the earth­quake and sub­se­quent tsuna­mi.

The dis­as­ter killed more than 15,400 peo­ple and destroyed coastal vil­lages, towns and cities in the Tohoku region. The U.S. mil­i­tary sent 20 ships, includ­ing the air­craft car­ri­er USS Ronald Rea­gan, almost 20,000 per­son­nel, and huge amounts of sup­plies and heavy equip­ment.

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