Biden lauds disaster-hit Japan

2011-08-23 15:01
Sendai - US Vice-President Joe Biden on Tuesday praised Japan's courage and resolve as he visited its tsunami-shattered coast, where American forces helped with a large-scale relief effort.

Biden, near the end of his Asia tour, is the top-ranking American official to travel to the disaster zone where the March 11 quake and tsunami claimed more than 20 000 lives and sparked the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

"I am honoured and truly humbled to have an opportunity to visit this place, to see so much devastation and tragedy," said Biden, speaking at the airport of Sendai, one of the cities hardest-hit by the disaster.

The American vice-president said that Japan's response to what he called "this God-awful tragedy" had "demonstrated for the world to see so much heroism, courage and resolve and selflessness".

"I came to express not only my commitment to say, 'We will do whatever we can to help,' but to tell you how much the president, how much I, how much the American people admire your character."

Walking through the devastated landscape later, Biden saw a house that was reduced to a shell amid knocked-down pine trees and debris. He laid white flowers on a pile of rocks before observing a moment's silence.

Clearing airport

The United States, which has maintained bases across Japan since World War II, mobilised more than 20 000 troops and around 160 aircraft in disaster relief and recovery operations after Japan's worst peace-time catastrophe.

One of the core achievements of the US "Operation Tomodachi" (Friend) was to clear Sendai's international airport, where the tsunami had swept aircraft, cars, mud and debris across runways and into terminals.

Japan's outgoing centre-left Prime Minister Naoto Kan earlier thanked Biden for his country's "enormous assistance" and said he would like to "reiterate our gratitude" on behalf of Japan's people.

"You do not need to express gratitude to us," Biden replied. "You'd do the same for us. Our only regret is that we could not do even more."

The meeting was clouded by the fact that Kan, under fire for his post-disaster leadership, has only days left in office before he is set to make way next week for Japan's sixth new premier in five years.

Biden told reporters after their hour-long talk that "Japan will rebound, and be stronger - literally stronger - than before the devastation".

Okinawa controversy

The US tsunami aid effort has helped rebuild relations which were long strained by a dispute over a US airbase on Japan's Okinawa island.

Many residents of the far-southern island have long chafed under a heavy post-war US military presence and demanded that the contentious base, the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, be moved off Okinawa.

Kan's predecessor Yukio Hatoyama stepped down last year after first promising to move the base off the island, then reneging on the pledge - managing to anger both Washington and Okinawans in the process.

The allies have since agreed to go ahead with a planned move of the base within Okinawa island, but have been forced to scrap a 2014 deadline for the shift.

Defence planners in both countries see Okinawa's US bases as significant at a time when China is building up its naval forces and showing an increasing assertiveness in territorial disputes in nearby waters.

Biden spoke about his visit to China and pointed at the half-century security alliance between Tokyo and Washington.

Reassurance on economy

"We are a Pacific power. You are a Pacific power. We are allies, both economically and politically," Biden told Kan. "It's something that we value a great deal."

Biden, who arrived in Tokyo on Monday night after touring China and Mongolia, on Wednesday visits the US military headquarters in Japan at the Yokota airbase west of Tokyo.

He used his five-day visit to China, his first as vice-president, to reassure senior leaders about the safety of US Treasuries following a historic downgrade this month of the country's top-notch credit rating.

Returning to the theme in his talk with Kan, Biden said: "There are voices in the world who are counting us out. They are making a very bad bet."

Read more on:    joe biden  |  japan  |  japan earthquake

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go! - shop online today

Month End Madness Sale!

Save up to 60% on across a wide range of goods from books to electronics, DVDs and many more. Sale end 31 January 2015. Shop now!

Valentine’s Day gifts – 14 Feb!

Gifts to spoil him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

Lego sale!

Buy 2 or more Lego toys and get 15% off. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off fragrances

Get 30% off fragrances for him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off All Textbooks

Save up to 30% off an extensive range of prescribed textbooks for all major universities and FET colleges. Shop Now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


Spontaneity and bright ideas are emphasized today but there is a tendency to be too impulsive and you may want to keep a handle more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.