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U.S. military, aid groups prepare to assist after Japan earthquake

The USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier, and its strike group were near the Korean Peninsula but were turning toward Japan in case they are needed as well, Lapan said.

The U.S. ships could provide airlift and rescue support, as well as deliver food, water and medical supplies.

Lapan said U.S. forces in the Pacific regularly train with allies for disasters.

"A number of the exercises that we conduct in this region are specifically designed as humanitarian-assistance-type relief missions because we've unfortunately had to do this several times in different areas in the Pacific," he said. "So we're well positioned."

There were no reports of American deaths in Japan connected with the quake, or serious damage to U.S. military installations.

The State Department set up a round-the-clock crisis center in Washington to assist Americans who had been unable to contact loved ones in Japan. The crisis center can be reached by e-mail or by phone at 888-407-4747.

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