Wed, Jun 25, 2008 - Page 5 News List

China to welcome first Japanese war ship since WWII

COME TOGETHERThe defense forces of the two sides could now begin to cooperate over natural disasters, argued Feng Zhaokui, a Japan specialist

AFP , ZHANJIANG, CHINA

China prepared yesterday to welcome the first Japanese war ship to visit since World War II in a dramatic sign of improving relations between East Asia’s two major powers.

The 4,650-tonne destroyer Sazanami, sailing from Kure in western Hiroshima prefecture and carrying earthquake relief supplies, was due to arrive later in the port city of Zhanjiang in Guangdong Province.

“It’s a big event in defence exchanges between China and Japan,” the Oriental Morning Post, a state-controlled Chinese newspaper, said on its Web site. “Let’s extend a warm welcome to the Japanese guests.”

Sazanami’s voyage marks a return visit after Chinese missile destroyer Shenzhen anchored in Japan late last year.

The Japanese destroyer is bringing goods including 300 blankets, 2,600 pre-packaged meals and hygiene masks for victims of the devastating earthquake that struck southwest China’s Sichuan Province on May 12.

The visit comes amid improving ties between the Asian giants after a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in early May in Tokyo.

In a fresh sign of a thaw, Japan and China said earlier this month they had struck a breakthrough deal to jointly develop gas fields in the East China Sea, a spat that has further damaged ties between the major energy importers.

Sino-Japanese relations have long been overshadowed by Japan’s brutal invasion of China that started in the northeast of the mainland in 1931 and expanded through World War II, resulting in the deaths of millions of Chinese.

The defense forces of the two sides could now begin to cooperate more on natural disasters in an age of global warming, argued Feng Zhaokui (馮昭奎), a Japan specialist at the China Academy of Social Sciences.

“It will inevitably become an irreversible trend for the two countries’ military to strengthen cooperation in eliminating non-traditional threats and natural calamities,” he wrote in an opinion piece in the China Daily.

In Japan, the conservative Sankei newspaper said yesterday parts of events — including a concert by a Japanese navy music band — were suspended and media coverage by the Japanese media of the event was not freely allowed. The paper said this was because “part of the public opinion in China is against the Japanese destroyer’s visit to China.”

The China Daily said in an editorial this week that “it will be unrealistic to expect that one visit of a Chinese or Japanese navy destroyer will remove all the doubts between China and Japan.”

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