Leaders from U.S. Army Japan and the Kanagawa prefecture government Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding, formalizing their partnership in case of a disaster.

"Last Saturday’s earthquake in Iwate and Miyagi is the most recent disaster which reminds all of us the importance of disaster readiness," Maj. Gen. Elbert N. Perkins, the USARJ commanding general, said during the signing ceremony. "It also showed us the importance of the working relationship and cooperation needed in such an event between various agencies in the government — fire and rescue, volunteer and citizens — in times of disaster in order to provide help and support to the citizens we protect."

Since 1997 the U.S. Army and Kanagawa prefecture have informally worked together using the "Manual for Mutual Help between U.S. Military and Kanagawa Prefectural Government at Disaster," based on the lessons learned from the Great Hanshin/Awaji Earthquake in 1995.

While the memorandum doesn’t lay out specific assets or plans to be used should a disaster take place, the agreement allows for a closer working relationship between the two parties in planning and responding to a disaster. This includes updating the 1997 manual and meeting on a regular basis to discuss, study and coordinate disaster preparation and response.

Until now, the Army has only participated in Kanagawa prefecture’s disaster relief exercises as observers.

"Hopefully in the future we’ll be able to directly participate in more disaster training," said Ed Roper, a spokesman for U.S. Army Garrison-Japan. "It shows that we’re willing to help the people of Kanagawa."

According to the memorandum, neither party is obligated to provide any assistance, and the cost of disaster preparedness/disaster countermeasure activities will paid by the party offering the support.

In February, a similar memorandum was signed between Kanagawa prefecture and the U.S. Navy.

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