U.S. aid to Japan may help improve ties between nations

A resident rides a bicycle among destroyed houses and debris in the tsunami-damaged city of Rikuzentakata, in Iwate prefecture.

JEREMY HOBSON: Japan's government said today the earthquake and tsunami there could cost the country $309 billion. That's more than twice the cost of damage from Hurricane Katrina. The U.S. is stepping in to help.

We continue our coverage now of the human and economic toll of the tragedy in Japan with our Asia Bureau chief Rob Schmitz who joins us from Tokyo. Hi Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ: Hey Jeremy.

HOBSON: So how much is the United States doing to help Japan?

SCHMITZ: This has been one of the U.S. military's largest relief efforts in years. You've got 20 U.S. Navy ships off Japan's northern coast right now, including one of our aircraft carriers. And the Navy's managed to deliver 200,000 pounds of crucial supplies like food and water to victims of the tsunami. The estimated cost of the entire clean up of these areas is now at more than $200 billion, but I think a lot of Japanese are paying attention to the U.S. efforts.

Here's an example. Today I was interviewing a factory manager in Tokyo about the impact of this crisis on his business, and in the middle of the interview, he started to cry. And here's some sound of that.

While he was crying he bowed to me. And it was one of those prolonged bows. I mean, because I'm American, he was thanking me for all the help the United States is extending to Japan in the relief effort.

HOBSON: So very grateful for the help -- Rob are people getting everything that they need?

SCHMITZ: While I was in Sendai last week, I saw that the evacuation centers were really lacking food. And I should add that the U.S. military presence has always been controversial in Japan. But here, the U.S. stepped in when Japan's own government had problems doing so. People have noticed that, and it's a good bet public opinion towards the U.S. presence here may change as a result.

HOBSON: Marketplace's Rob Schmitz in Tokyo. Thanks Rob.

SCHMITZ: Thanks Jeremy.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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