Minister of Defense Expresses His Appreciation for the Support Provided by Each Country

Visit to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, and expressing appreciation for Operation Tomodachi

U.S. aircraft carrier crew unveiling an “Operation Tomodachi” banner for Minister Kitazawa.
U.S. aircraft carrier crew unveiling an “Operation Tomodachi” banner for Minister Kitazawa.

On April 4, Defense Minister Kitazawa, accompanied by Chief of Staff of the Joint Staff General Oriki, Chief of Staff of the MSDF Admiral Sugimoto, Director General of the Minister’s Secretariat Kanazawa, and other senior officials visited the nuclear-powered carrier USS Ronald Reagan and thanked Admiral Walsh, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, as well as other U.S. service members. The USS Ronald Reagan had carried out operations off the Tohoku coast from an early stage of the disaster, serving at the center of disaster relief activities for the Great East Japan Earthquake named “Operation Tomodachi.”

Defense Minister Kitazawa addressed the crew of the USS Ronald Reagan with a message of appreciation from Prime Minister Kan–“To all U.S. military members, on behalf of the people of Japan, I sincerely express my deep appreciation for the tremendous support provided by the U.S. military, the U.S. government and the American people at a time of unprecedented crisis in Japan. (…) the entire Japanese people are deeply moved and encouraged by the scenes of U.S. military members working hard to support the relief efforts. (…) Japan, with your continuous cooperation, is determined to launch fullscale efforts to overcome the challenges ahead of us.”

Representing the U.S. government, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Roos offered words of friendship–“(…) it is that fabric of friendship between our two countries - represented by each one of you here today - that brings our two countries together. Today, we stand together - Japan and the United States, side by side - on the deck of USS Ronald Reagan as friends who over the last three and a half weeks have worked together day and night to uplift this great country from the horrific devastation. (…) As you, our Japanese friends, continue to work to face the multitude of challenges your great nation faces now and will continue to face in the weeks, months and years ahead, please never, never forget that our country will be here for you whenever you need us, wherever you need us.”

In response, Defense Minister Kitazawa delivered the following remarks–“No time like the present have I felt so strongly that the United States, our ally, is a reliable partner, and have I felt so proud of our alliance with the United States. (…) Disaster can destroy human life and property, but it cannot destroy the human spirit. This is what Ambassador Roos said when he visited the disaster hit elementary school, Watanoha, in Ishinomaki City. The Ambassador’s remark will be long remembered in the history of Japan–U.S. relations as a message that tied the hearts and souls of the survivors and their lost loved ones. In closing, I would like to say that the on going Japan–U.S. joint relief operation in tackling this unprecedented crisis that our country is now facing, will be long remembered in the memories of both the Japanese and American people. I am convinced that our joint efforts today will lead to further deepening of the Japan–U.S. Alliance.” Admiral Walsh then commented, “By any measure, the actions that the Japanese Self-Defense Force have taken, the work that they have done, has been heroic and earned the gratitude and the respect of colleagues from around the world.”

Thereafter, Defense Minister Kitazawa held an exchange of opinions with senior officials of the U.S. forces, together with the Commanding General of the Northeastern Army General Kimizuka, who is the joint commander of the mission, and other officials, and left the USS Ronald Reagan.

Courtesy call by Admiral Walsh,Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet

Commander of the Pacific Fleet Walsh visits the Ministry of Defense and pays a courtesy call to Minister Kitazawa.
Commander of the Pacific Fleet Walsh visits the Ministry of Defense and pays a courtesy call to Minister Kitazawa.

On April 11, Admiral Walsh, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, paid a courtesy call on Defense Minister Kitazawa at the Ministry of Defense.

Admiral Walsh came to Japan immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, at short notice as the commander of Operation Tomodachi, leading 18,000 U.S. service members in the search for missing people in the Earthquake off the Sanriku coast and the transportation of food and other relief supplies to the disaster areas. On April 12, after handing over the command of the Operation to Lt. Gen. Field, Commander of the U.S. forces, Japan, Admiral Walsh visited the Ministry of Defense with Ambassador Roos before his return to duty.

Defense Minister Kitazawa conveyed Prime Minister Kan’s appreciation to Admiral Walsh, expressing the Prime Minister wishes to extend his gratitude for the outstanding leadership and heart warming support extended to Japan.

Admiral Walsh responded that the cooperation between the two countries had been wonderful, and highly commended the disaster relief activities carried out jointly by the SDF and the U.S. forces.

Meeting with Prime Minister Gillard of Australia
(expressing appreciation for the Australian Army’s support toward relief efforts)

On April 22, Defense Minister Kitazawa met with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard at a hotel in Tokyo. He expressed his gratitude to Australia for their support in relief efforts for the Great East Japan Earthquake, including the dispatch of C-17 transport aircraft and relief troops from the Australian Army. They also exchanged opinions on the Japan–Australia Foreign and Defense Ministers Meeting “2+2” scheduled for the later half of this year.

Australian Prime Minister Guillard shaking hands with Minister Kitazawa.
Australian Prime Minister Guillard shaking hands with Minister Kitazawa.

Chief of Staff of Joint Staff General Oriki, Director General Takamizawa of the Bureau of Defense Policy, and Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Richardson were also present at the meeting. Defense Minister Kitazawa said that he was extremely encouraged by the help proffered by friendly nations, as demonstrated in Australia’s delivery of relief supplies to the disaster areas using C-17 t ransport aircraft and dispatch of relief troops. He also expressed his commitment toward appropriate handling of the crisis, as the unprecedented disasters of an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident (in particular, the latter) would leave an impact not only on Japan, but also on the world. Furthermore, he affirmed that Japan, the United States, and Australia share common values, and hopes that the three partner countries will keep up their strong cooperative ties going forward. As the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) between Japan and Australia was approved by the Cabinet on April 15, Defense Minister Kitazawa also stated that Japan would make further efforts in order to develop the domestic legal infrastructure required for the Agreement to take effect.

Prime Minister Gillard commended the SDF’s activities, citing the example of the floods that had hit Queensland last year. She said that she was glad that Australia was able to provide support for Japan’s disaster relief activities. She also commented that victims of a disaster feel relieved when they see uniformed personnel arriving to offer help and support, and that the victims of Japan’s disaster must have felt the same.

Prime Minister Gillard and her entourage visited Sanriku in Miyagi Prefecture where the Australian relief troops were engaged in relief activities, and gave words of encouragement to the victims.

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