President Barack Obama said Thursday the United States will stand with Japan as it contains its nuclear crisis, recovers and rebuilds. The president also reassured Americans that radiation from the damaged Japanese nuclear power plant will not reach U.S. shores.
Obama said he is confident that Japan will recover and rebuild because of the strength and spirit of the Japanese people. And he said the United States will do everything it can to help. "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," he said.
Thousands of people died as a result of last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and there is concern about the extensive damage to reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Standing before reporters in the White House Rose Garden, the president detailed some of the steps the U.S. has taken to help. "Search and rescue teams are on the ground in Japan to help the recovery effort. A disaster assistance and response team is working to confront the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. The U.S. military, which has helped to ensure the security of Japan for decades, is working around the clock," he said.
Obama said the military has flown hundreds of missions to deliver food and water to Japan.
Wednesday night, the president made what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney described as a very long telephone call to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, to discuss the situation.
This week the U.S. government urged Americans to evacuate an area within 80 kilometers of the plant. President Obama defended the decision, which differs from the Japanese government’s advice, saying the U.S. warning was based on careful scientific evaluation. He also said Americans elsewhere in Japan should be vigilant.
''All U.S. citizens in Japan should continue to carefully monitor the situation and follow the guidance of the US and Japanese governments. And those who are seeking assistance should contact our embassy and consulates, which continue to be open and operational,'' he said.
While some Americans in Western states have been taking precautions against radiation drifting their way from Japan, Obama emphatically reassured them that that is not a danger.
''We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, whether it is the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or U.S. territories in the Pacific,'' he said.
The president also said U.S. nuclear power plants have been declared safe. But he has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of safety of the country’s nuclear plants.
Also Thursday, Obama made an unannounced trip to the Japanese embassy in Washington to sign a book of condolences. Among other things, he wrote “Please know that America will always stand by one of its greatest allies during this time of need.