U.S. confident Japan will handle economic challenges

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is confident Japan will be able to handle economic challenges in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, and does not expect the disaster to stall the world's recovery from economic recession, a White House spokesman said on Monday.

"We have full confidence in the capacity of Japan to address the economic challenges during these exceptionally difficult times," White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a news briefing.

Carney was asked whether President Barack Obama's economic advisers were concerned that the natural disaster might delay the world's recovery from deep economic recession.

"These are still early days but ... we remain confident that Japan, and therefore the world, can deal with this crisis and respond and rebuild in a way that is good for Japan and good for the world," Carney said.

"So we have that confidence, and we therefore believe, that the resiliency of the Japanese people, the resiliency of the Japanese economy, are very important factors in the capacity of Japan to handle this and therefore the world, working with Japan, to handle it as well," he said.

Japan, the world's third-largest economy after the United States and China, has been struggling to emerge from a downturn. Economists' best guess is that the earthquake will hold back its already sluggish economic output in the short term, and that the global impact looks modest.

The severity of the economic damage will depend on how long it takes to restore normal power, a prerequisite for rebuilding that should provide the country with some economic lift.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Emily Kaiser)