Japanese warship makes historic China visit

A Japanese destroyer sailed into southern China Tuesday in the first port call by one of Japan's warships to China since World War II, the latest sign of improved ties between the rival Asian giants, reported CNN.

The Sazanami will stay in the southern navy port of Zhanjiang in Guangdong province until June 28.

The navy vessel with 240 crew members carried blankets, medical supplies and other relief goods for survivors of China's devastating May 12 earthquake that killed more than 69,000 people.

Chinese state media showed pictures of the ship arriving with Chinese sailors lined up on the dock in white uniforms under the two countries' flags.

The destroyer Sazanami was paying a return visit for a port call made by the Chinese guided missile destroyer Shenzhen to Tokyo in November, the first visit by a Chinese military vessel to Japan since the war.

The visit comes as relations warm between the countries. President Hu Jintao toured Japan in early May, the first such visit by a Chinese head of state in 10 years.

Any Japanese military presence remains a sensitive issue for many Chinese who still hold bitter feelings about Japan's invasion and occupation of their country in the 1930s and '40s.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said the visit would be supported by the Chinese public and denied it could inflame discontent.

"This visit will promote exchanges between the defense departments of the two countries and will help ship the assistance materials to the earthquake-hit area in China. This will also help enhance the friendship and mutual trust between the two countries," he told a news conference in Beijing.

"Strengthening our exchanges and cooperation in the field of defense will be supported by the two peoples and I don't think there will be public anger," he said.

The Sazanami will stay in the southern navy port of Zhanjiang in Guangdong province until June 28.

The countries have recently been making efforts to improve relations. They announced an agreement last week to jointly develop gas deposits beneath waters in the East China Sea that are claimed by both sides -- a breakthrough in one of their major disputes.

But Japan was forced in late May to abandon a plan to use military planes to deliver relief goods to quake-hit China after Beijing voiced unease about the mission. Many Chinese posted protest messages on the Internet about the plan.

Japan-China relations had plunged in the late 1990s and early 2000s due to disagreements about wartime history, conflicting territorial claims and other squabbles.

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