A Chinese warship dropped anchor off Tokyo yesterday in China's first military visit to Japan since World War II, symbolizing improving ties between the two Asian giants.
The port call by the guided missile destroyer Shenzhen, with about 350 crew on board, was part of an exchange that will bring a Japanese warship on a visit to China at a later date. It was the first visit ever to Japan by China's People's Liberation Army.
The visit took place amid concerns in Japan over surging defense spending in China, but the commanding officer assured his Japanese hosts that Tokyo has nothing to fear from Chinese military might.
"There is no need for concern, but we must be able to protect ourselves," Rear Admiral Xiao Xinnian (蕭新年) told reporters on board the ship. "China does not want to be a superpower or take over the world."
The port call also came less than a week after Beijing deeply embarrassed Japan's closest ally, the US, by refusing to allow the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier and its battle group entry into the port of Hong Kong. The Kitty Hawk's home port is in Japan.
The Chinese ship arrived under heavy security with a Japanese destroyer as its escort and a half dozen helicopters buzzing in the sky. On board, a navy band played Anchors Aweigh, while a cheering section of Chinese well-wishers brought by bus by the embassy waved Chinese flags and performed a lion dance.
During its four-day stay, the Shenzhen will be opened to the Japanese public for tours. It also will dock at the Japanese naval headquarters in Yokosuka, just south of Tokyo, before returning to its home base in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang.
Diplomatic relations between Japan and China -- two countries that are increasingly vying for economic and political clout in the region -- have visibly improved over the past year.
"We have made big strides in our military relations and your visit symbolizes this progress," Admiral Eiji Yoshikawa, chief of staff for the Japanese navy, told the Chinese delegation.
Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cui Tiankai (