Obama: U.S. Pledges Support for Stricken Japanese

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2011 — The Unit­ed States is using all avail­able resources to assist a strick­en Japan reel­ing from the effects of a mas­sive earth­quake, a fol­low-on tsuna­mi and a bat­tered nuclear pow­er infra­struc­ture, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma told reporters today at the White House.
“We are work­ing aggres­sive­ly to sup­port our Japan­ese ally at this time of extra­or­di­nary chal­lenge,” Oba­ma said. “Search and res­cue teams are on the ground in Japan to help the recov­ery effort … The U.S. mil­i­tary, which has helped to ensure the secu­ri­ty of Japan for decades, is work­ing around the clock.”

Already, “we’ve flown hun­dreds of mis­sions to sup­port the recov­ery efforts, and dis­trib­uted thou­sands of pounds of food and water to the Japan­ese peo­ple,” he said. “We’ve also deployed some of our lead­ing experts to help con­tain the dam­age at Japan’s nuclear reac­tors. We’re shar­ing with them exper­tise, equip­ment, and tech­nol­o­gy so that the coura­geous respon­ders on the scene have the ben­e­fit of Amer­i­can team­work and sup­port.”

Some of Japan’s nuclear facil­i­ties have been in a state of emer­gency since a mas­sive March 11 earth­quake, fol­lowed by a tsuna­mi, dev­as­tat­ed parts of the country’s main island of Hon­shu.

Last night, Oba­ma said, he autho­rized the move­ment of Amer­i­cans locat­ed with­in 50 miles of Japan’s nuclear facil­i­ty at Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi.

“Even as Japan­ese respon­ders con­tin­ue to do hero­ic work, we know that the dam­age to the nuclear reactors…poses a sub­stan­tial risk to peo­ple who are near­by,” the pres­i­dent said. “This deci­sion was based upon a care­ful sci­en­tif­ic eval­u­a­tion and the guide­lines we would use to keep our cit­i­zens safe here in the Unit­ed States, or any­where in the world.”

Beyond the 50-mile radius, Oba­ma said, “the risks do not cur­rent­ly call for an evac­u­a­tion. But we do have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to take pru­dent and pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures to edu­cate those Amer­i­cans who may be endan­gered by expo­sure to radi­a­tion if the sit­u­a­tion dete­ri­o­rates.”

Dam­age at the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er facil­i­ty has caused the Defense Depart­ment to autho­rize the vol­un­tary depar­ture of eli­gi­ble mil­i­tary fam­i­ly mem­bers from Japan to the Unit­ed States. The State Depart­ment has estab­lished a sim­i­lar pro­gram for fam­i­ly mem­bers liv­ing in Japan.

Oba­ma urged Amer­i­cans in Japan to con­tin­ue to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion close­ly, to fol­low the guid­ance of the U.S. and Japan­ese gov­ern­ments, and to con­tact the U.S. embassy and con­sulates in Japan for assis­tance.

The pres­i­dent said he knows that many Amer­i­cans are wor­ried about pos­si­ble risks to the Unit­ed States from radi­a­tion in Japan.

“So I want to be very clear: we do not expect harm­ful lev­els of radi­a­tion to reach the Unit­ed States, whether it’s the West Coast, Hawaii, Alas­ka or U.S. ter­ri­to­ries in the Pacif­ic,” he said. “This is the judg­ment of our Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion and many oth­er experts.”

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and oth­er pub­lic health experts do not rec­om­mend that peo­ple in the Unit­ed States take pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures beyond stay­ing informed, Oba­ma said, adding that he’s com­mis­sioned a review of U.S. nuclear facil­i­ties.

Oba­ma, who’d returned from a vis­it to the Japan­ese embassy here before speak­ing to reporters in the White House’s Rose Gar­den, said the Japan­ese peo­ple “are not alone in this time of great tri­al and sor­row. Across the Pacif­ic, they will find a hand of sup­port extend­ed from the Unit­ed States as they get back on their feet.

“We have an alliance that was forged more than a half cen­tu­ry ago, and strength­ened by shared inter­ests and demo­c­ra­t­ic val­ues,” he added. “Our peo­ple share ties of fam­i­ly, ties of cul­ture, and ties of com­merce. Our troops have served to pro­tect Japan’s shores, and our cit­i­zens have found oppor­tu­ni­ty and friend­ship in Japan’s cities and towns.”

In the com­ing days, Oba­ma said, the Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue to do every­thing pos­si­ble to ensure the safe­ty of Amer­i­cans in Japan while assist­ing the Japan­ese as they recov­er from the dis­as­ter.

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

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