March 14th, 2011
02:37 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama declared Monday that he's "heartbroken" by the devastation of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, and vowed to help in any way possible to help the close U.S. ally rebuild.
"I want to reiterate America's support for the people of Japan, who are some of our closest friends and allies," Obama said during an event at a middle school in northern Virginia. "And I've said directly to the prime minister of Japan, Prime Minister Kan that the United States will continue to offer any assistance we can as Japan recovers from multiple disasters. And we will stand with the people of Japan in the difficult days ahead."
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who had a pre-scheduled meeting with Obama on Monday afternoon to discuss the war in Afghanistan and unrest in the Mideast among other key issues, told CNN in an interview that the relief efforts for Japan would also now be a key part of their Oval Office discussion as well.
"What's going on in Japan is absolutely awful and I send my deepest condolences to the Japanese people, and the Japanese prime minister," Rasmussen told CNN. "I actually sent him a letter Friday morning when I, as all Europeans [did], watched the pictures on television and offered assistance."
Rasmussen added that Denmark is located "a pretty long distance from Japan" and aid from neighboring Asian countries is probably more urgent, but he is still "prepared to help the Japanese" in any way that he can.
At his daily briefing with reporters, White House spokesman Jay Carney was joined by officials of the U.S. Department of Energy who said the administration is helping the Japanese government deal with the potential crisis with its nuclear reactors.
Carney said the nuclear concerns in Japan have not affected Obama's plans to build new nuclear power plants in America as part of the broader effort for energy reform. "It remains a part of the president's overall energy plan," he said.
The comments came as the Japanese government formally asked for assistance from the U.S. government - specifically the Nuclear Regulatory Commission - to deal with the nuclear power plant cooling issues that were sparked by the earthquake and tsunami.
"As part of a larger U.S. government response, the NRC is considering possible replies to the request, which includes providing technical advice," the NRC said in an official statement.
The statement noted that NRC officials have already been monitoring the Japanese reactor issues "on a 24-hour-a-day basis" at the U.S. agency's operations center in Rockville, Md.
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