Departing U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos sent a reassuring message Thursday to the people of the Tohoku region still struggling after the March 2011 disasters struck, using the Japanese word “ganbatte” to encourage them on.
“The most difficult period (in Japan) is without doubt after March 11, 2011, to witness the enormity of the tragedy that struck Japan,” Roos said at a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Roos, who plans to leave Japan on Monday, praised the people in the Tohoku region, which he visited many times, saying: “I know everyone talks about strength and resilience. I continue to see it every time I go up there.
“My message to the people of Tohoku is that we have not forgotten and we will not forget.”
The ambassador said, “I was proud that after March 11 through Operation Tomodachi, but even beyond military operations, we were able to help Japanese people in a small way.”
Operation Tomodachi (Friend) was the massive joint U.S.-Japanese military relief and rescue operation that effectively kicked in the hours after the 3/11 mega-quake and tsunami hit and triggered the Fukushima reactor meltdowns.
Roos, who became the first U.S. ambassador to Japan to attend ceremonies for atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said he wanted to “show respect for all victims of World War II” and “help advance in a small way” U.S. President Barrack Obama’s goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.
Asked if he will advise Obama to visit the two Japanese cities after he returns to the United States, Roos said, “I think scheduling is up to the president and the White House.
“But I have no doubt in the sincerity of his words he would be honored to do so during his presidency.”