Kan also told Obama that the Japanese police, Self Defense Force and all related organizations were fully mobilized to handle the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been releasing radiation since the earthquake and tsunami stuck March 11. The phone call was kept confidential from the press.
Kan’s cabinet knew that dropping water into the reactor building would not have much effect. However, some government officials admitted that Kan needed to send a political message that the Japanese government was doing its best to stabilize the crippled plant before telephoning Obama.
A report was secretly made to Kan by a Japansese government offical a few days before helicopters were sent to Fukushima Daiichi that there was a possibility the U.S. government would authorize a forced evacuation of U.S. citizens from Japan if the situation at Fukushima remained unresolved. Although Obama was not mentioned, the comment shocked the cabinet and Foreign Ministry, and they took it as a direct message from Obama, according to Asahi.
A forced evacuation of U.S. citizens would have been a worst-case scenario that the U.S. government could have drafted with nuclear experts. A U.S. Navy official told Japanese Self Defense Force officials that it would be necessary to make evacuation plans for 80,000 U.S. military personal from Japan, reported Asahi. Kan then asked Self Defense Force members to risk their lives in the helicopter operations because it was crucial for Japan to show they were making efforts to resolve the problems at the Fukushima plant in order to ask the U.S. for support.
About 18 hours after receiving the call from Kan, Obama visited Japan’s embassy in Washington to offer deep condolences and told Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki that the U.S. would take any necessary actions to help Japan. “President Obama visited the embassy after making sure that the Japanese government was determined to resolve the situation at the Fukushima plant,” a U.S. government official said.
While the helicopters that were dispatched did not have much effect on the plants, the political mission was accomplished.
U.S.-Japan consultations regarding the accident at Fukushima Daiichi began on March 22, according to an official. The consultation consisted of the U.S. military, the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Nuclear and Industrial Agency, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and Japanese government officials. Although differences in jurisdiction and interests were inevitable, the orders from the consultation were swiftly carried out while TEPCO and the Japanese government were not able to solve the problems on their own.
The idea of using pure water to control temperatures at the plant came from the U.S., as the use of ocean water could result in corrosion of the furnaces. A barge containing pure water was sent to Fukushima because TEPCO said it did not have enough pure water. The ideas of injecting nitrogen into the reactor containment vessel and using large amounts of water to cool off the fuel rods, called “flooding,” were also ideas from the U.S., and TEPCO rather unwillingly agreed.
One month later after the helicopters were dispatched, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Victor Roos visited the official residence of Japan’s Foreign Ministry in Tokyo around April 17. The road map to stabilize plans at Fukushima Daiichi plant was drafted by TEPCO. The Foreign Ministry obtained the plans just before Clinton was about to land at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. A foreign ministry personnel handed it to Roos two hours before it was officially announced in public.
“It was important to make sure Secretary Clinton had the road map before the meeting,” said an executive of the Foreign Ministry. The ministry received criticism for announcing they had released low-level radioactive water April 4 into the ocean two minutes after they had already started the process. The road map also included strengthening of the fuel pool at reactor No. 4 in case there are more earthquakes.
Clinton said during the meeting with the Foreign Ministry that U.S. corporations would like to contribute to the reconstruction and agreed on a new joint public-private partnership with Japan. Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of Nippon Keidaren (a Japanese federation of business organizations), were also at the joint meeting. The Japanese business community’s understanding of Clinton’s remark was that it will be called “Operation Tomodachi” (friend) and will use the two nations’ industrial sectors.
However, an executive said, “We are keeping an appropriate distance from the U.S. We are thankful that the U.S supported reconstruction, which made it difficult to decline their offers. However, we cannot be so naïve to think that Japanese corporations will give everything to the U.S. We are also expecting reconstruction business opportunities.”
Source used Asahi Shimbun