As Japan’s needs mount in the aftermath of its earthquake, tsunami and radiological disasters, the United States and China are putting aside their regional differences to help the Japanese recover, offering up military and emergency services for assistance.
Japan and the United States have had their share of tensions with China lately, thanks to feuds over U.S.-Korean exercises near China’s borders and disputes between China and Japan over where those borders actually lie, among other issues.
But since the earthquake hit on Friday, tensions have given way to cooperation, as Japan’s closest ally and biggest rival have pitched in to help. While the two big Pacific powers aren’t launching any joint relief operations in Japan at the moment, their aid efforts point to the hopeful prospect for some regional confidence-building in the future — or, at the least, what Pacific disaster assistance looks like in an age where both China and the United States dominate the area.
At the moment, the U.S. Navy has a number of ships operating off the coast of Japan, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, its carrier group and the destroyers Fitzgerald, McCain, McCampbell and Wilbur off the coast of Japan. Four more ships, the Blue Ridge, Essex, Harper’s Ferry and Germantown are set to arrive tomorrow.
The military also dispatched a Global Hawk spy drone to Japan ”at the request of the Japanese government,” according to an Air Force representative.
That fits a pattern of drone deployment during natural disasters: Last year, the Air Force diverted a Global Hawk from Afghanistan to provide imagery and surveillance after Haiti’s earthquake. The drone, able to fly for 30 hours at a time, provides imagery and reconnaissance — helpful to disaster managers and emergency services personnel looking to assess damage.
Marines stationed at Okinawa have also begun coordinating assistance on the mainland as part of Operation Tomadachi and another 2,200 are set to arrive in Japan shortly.
It’s not just the military that’s lending an American helping hand. Elite Los Angeles and Fairfax county search and rescue teams arrived in Japan Sunday and reached the stricken coastal city of Ofunato on Monday. Thus far, they’ve found no survivors. Iwate prefecture, on Japan’s northeast coast, suffered particular devastation from the quake and subsequent tsunami, with 200 dead and 191 missing as of today.
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