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International Relations

Foreign aid rushes into Japan after deadly rains

Taiwan and China are both quick to show support

U.S. Marines shovel mud and debris in the Yamaguchi Precture city of Iwakuni last weekend. Troops stationed there volunteered to help local residents clean up after the floods. (Photo provided by the U.S. Embassy to Japan)

TOKYO -- Taiwan, the U.S. and China were among the first to come to Japan's aid after torrential rains and floods, with leaders close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also offering quick support.

The head of Taiwan's liaison office in Japan, Frank Hsieh, presented the government with a 20 million yen ($177,340) donation for reconstruction efforts last Thursday. At the ceremony, he said Tokyo and Taipei's mutual support in times of need shows their true friendship. President Tsai Ing-wen also took to Twitter on July 7, in the midst of the disaster, to express her support.

Located in disaster-prone regions, Japan and Taiwan have a history of mutual assistance. Taiwanese companies and citizens donated about 20 billion yen after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. Abe and Tsai exchanged words of encouragement after the earthquakes in eastern Taiwan this February and in Osaka last month. 

The U.S. has also responded quickly. Ambassador William Hagerty tweeted out his sympathies July 8 and announced that his country would provide $100,000 in relief Friday. President Donald Trump also tweeted Saturday: "Our prayers are with those affected by the flooding in Japan."

U.S. forces stationed in Japan have also provided physical support. Marines stationed in Yamaguchi Prefecture volunteered to help clean up residential districts affected by flooding. Although trade tensions have strained relations, the swift show of support is meant to display solidarity.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also sent a message of sympathy to Abe on July 10. Ambassador Cheng Yonghua delivered a donation of about 24.8 million yen Friday to Internal Affairs Minister Seiko Noda. The ministry serves as a link to regions outside Tokyo. Cheng said he hopes inhabitants of affected areas will overcome the disaster as soon as possible.

The Chinese government also provided about 30 million yuan ($4.46 million) worth of emergency supplies like tents and blankets after the 2011 tsunami, while its citizens sent donations. Sino-Japanese ties then deteriorated after Tokyo's 2012 nationalization of the Senkaku islands, which it administers but Beijing claims as the Diaoyu. Relations are improving, however, as shown by Li's first visit to Japan in seven years as premier this May. China hopes to continue this trend by offering visible support to flooded areas.

Foreign leaders who communicate closely with Abe have also been quick to react. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said July 8 that his country is preparing all forms of aid, while Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message on July 9 that he hopes for a quick recovery.

"The quick announcements of aid can be attributed to these countries' strong ties with Japan and Abe's close relationship with their leaders," said Kunihiko Miyake, a research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies.

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