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Obama declares bond with Japan 'unshakeable'

By Ed Henry, CNN Senior White House Correspondent
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Tsunami engulfs Japan port city
  • Obama expresses condolences to the people of Japan
  • Tells FEMA to be ready to help Hawaii and other states and territories

Washington (CNN) -- President Obama sent his condolences to the people of Japan over the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake, and declared that the United States stands ready to offer aid because of the "unshakeable" bond between the two nations.

Obama, who was informed of the earthquake at 4 a.m. ET by Chief of Staff Bill Daley, also said he has instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency "to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the U.S. states and territories that could be affected" by tsunamis.

Obama, who had already scheduled an 11:15 a.m. ET Friday news conference at the White House to discuss soaring energy prices in the United States, will no doubt have more to say about this new international crisis as well.

"Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis," Obama said in a written statement released by the White House early Friday.

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"The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial," added Obama, who has visited Japan twice as president. "The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy."

Obama, who was born in Hawaii and spent a good chunk of his childhood there, added that the White House will continue to "closely monitor" tsunamis around Japan and the entire Pacific, and noted he has ordered top administration officials to get ready to assist U.S. citizens in Hawaii and other states who may be affected as well.

"We are asking all our citizens in the affected region to listen to their state and local officials as I have instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the U.S. states and territories that could be affected," said Obama.

Vice President Joe Biden, travelling in Moldova, called it a "mega-earthquake" and said "the thoughts and prayers of the American people ... are with our friends in Japan."

"We the United States stand ready to do anything we can to help our Japanese friends as they deal with the aftermath of this tragedy," Biden said, according to a pool report of his remarks.

Back on Feb. 27, 2010, after a massive earthquake in Chile, Obama spoke to the American people about the devastation and also warned U.S. citizens about the possibility of a tsunami in Hawaii, American Samoa, and Guam.

"I urge citizens to listen closely to the instructions of local officials, who will have the full support of the federal government as they prepare for a potential tsunami, and recover from any damage that may be cause," Obama said then.

CNN White House producer Bonney Kapp contributed to this report