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)