China has asked Japan to send military assistance after a devastating earthquake this month that killed more than 67,000 people, Japan's foreign ministry said yesterday.
Tokyo is considering its response to the request, the top government spokesman said, adding that he did not believe such a mission would involve Japanese troops operating on the ground.
Japan’s military has not been deployed in China since the end of World War II.
“There was a request from the Chinese side to our embassy in Beijing yesterday. It asked for relief materials and transport, including from the Self-Defense Forces [SDF],” Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference on Tuesday.
“It is not entirely clear, but I think they want SDF tents and blankets to be transported to a Chinese airport by SDF planes,” Machimura said.
He said he had heard requests had been made to other countries.
Shortly after the May 12 quake, Japan sent rescue teams and a medical team to Sichuan Province.
Nearly 160,000 people were evacuated downstream from an unstable earthquake-created lake in Sichuan, while the government warned that rebuilding after the disaster would be “arduous.”
Some 158,000 people have been evacuated and dozens of villages emptied in case the newly formed Tangjiashan lake bursts before soldiers and engineers can drain it, the official China Daily said yesterday.
Troops used explosives to clear debris and helicopters to airlift heavy moving equipment to dig drainage channels from the lake, located about 3.2km above the devastated town of Beichuan.
Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) told a meeting of the State Council that handling the danger from the swelling lakes was the “most pressing task” in the disaster recovery effort, the newspaper said.
The government has allocated 200 million yuan (US$28.6 million) to deal with the swelling lakes, the Xinhua news agency said. Of 34 lakes created by the earthquake in the mountainous province, 28 were at risk of bursting, the agency said.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed deaths from the quake climbed toward an expected toll of more than 80,000. The Cabinet said yesterday that 68,109 people were killed, with 19,851 still missing.
The National Development and Reform Commission warned that rebuilding after the quake would be difficult.
“Due to the immense magnitude of loss resulted from the quake, production recovery and reconstruction of the quake-hit region wilommission said in a statement, adding that major infrastructure had been “severely damaged.”
In other developments, torrential rains that killed 28 people in Guizhou Province were forecast to continue for the next three days.
Eighteen people have died in flooding since Sunday, Xinhua reported late on Tuesday. Twelve were missing.