Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says he will lead efforts to further develop ties with the United States.
Noda spoke at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Washington on Sunday. He was at a gathering to thank US troops and rescue workers who were part of the relief operation in northeastern Japan after the earthquake and tsunami last year.
Noda said he wanted to convey the gratitude of all Japanese people. He said support networks spread throughout the United States after the disaster thanks to grassroots ties between Japanese and US citizens.
Noda mentioned a Japanese high school girl who lost her family in the disaster and is now scheduled to study in the United States. He said the girl's story is a sign that ties between Japan and the United States will be strengthened by people repaying kindnesses.
Noda likened the Japan-US relationship to a flower. He promised to lead efforts to nurture the relationship so it will bloom more beautifully.