August 23, 2011
Wall Street Journal
SENDAI, Japan (Dow Jones)–U.S. Vice President Joe Biden underscored his country’s support for Japan on Tuesday as it rebuilds from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that ripped through the country’s northeastern region nearly six months ago.
“America will stand by Japan for as long as it takes,” Biden said in the central northeastern city of Sendai, standing on a makeshift stage at the airport flanked by the U.S. and Japanese flags. He said his visit was intended to “reinforce” that message.
Biden also briefly addressed the perceived decline in the stature of both countries as they battle economic troubles.
“There are some who are betting on the decline of America and the inability of Japan to recover. That’s a bad bet. Both of us will continue to grow and prosper … Together we are a significant part of the (global economic) engine.”
The event kicked off the vice president’s brief, several-hour tour through the region, and was a well-coordinated demonstration of the friendship between the two allies. In prepared remarks, Biden restated the importance of Japan’s relationship with the U.S., calling it “the anchor” of U.S. relationships in Asia, despite the economic growth of other countries.
About 200 people packed a section of the airport’s international terminal to hear Biden speak. Some 30 local residents from the nearby city of Natori, whose homes were wiped away by the tsunami and who currently live in temporary homes, were among the audience.
Sitting quietly–if warmly in their long-sleeved school uniforms–were nine students from local middle schools who had been selected to travel to Biden’s home state of Delaware for an annual exchange program. The disaster put the trip, originally scheduled for March 12, on hold. The governor of Miyagi Prefecture, in which Sendai is located, announced Tuesday the trip had been rescheduled for Oct. 30.
Along with the governor, members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military who helped with disaster relief also participated.
The vice president flew to Sendai after meeting Prime Minister Kan in Tokyo in the morning. He was scheduled to spend several hours in the tsunami-hit area, meeting survivors at a temporary housing center.
-By Yoree Koh, The Wall Street Journal; +81-3-6269-2837; Yoree.Koh@wsj.com