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Chinese warship begins landmark visit to Japan
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The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Naval missile destroyer "Shenzhen" arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday morning for a four-day visit, the first of its kind in the history of the naval force of the PLA.


"Shenzhen", with 345 officials and soldiers onboard, was headed by Rear Admiral Xiao Xinnian, vice chief of staff of the South China Sea Fleet of the PLA Navy. It entered into the Tokyo Bay earlier in the morning and was led by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF)'s frigate "Thunder" to the Harumi wharf, which is close to central Tokyo.


The Japanese side organized a warm welcoming ceremony on the bank shortly after "Shenzhen" called the port at 9:55 a.m.


Hundreds of Japan-based Chinese, including students, businessmen and diplomats, were on the scene to receive the big warship from homeland. Some of them waved flowers and Chinese national flags, some played traditional dressed-up lion dance to express happiness.


The missile destroyer left the Zhanjiang port of Southern China's Guangdong Province on Nov. 21 for Japan at the invitation of the MSDF.


Although tired after the weeklong sail, crew members of "Shenzhen" lined up along the shipboard vigorously and refreshed.


The warship visit is a significant and memorable event, which opened a new page in the history of Japan-China defense exchange and military communications, said Eiji Yoshikawa, chief of staff of the Japanese MSDF, at the ceremony.


Yoshikawa said he believes that the landmark port call will boost bilateral friendship and strengthen mutual trust.


Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cui Tiankai said the naval ship brings to the Japanese MSDF the sincere friendship of their Chinese "colleagues."


"The visit is set to inject new vigor and impetus into the development of bilateral ties," Cui said.


Rear Admiral Xiao said that coming with the ship are not only 345 officials and crew members, but also the amity of 1.3 billion Chinese people and the desire for peace and harmony.


"We believe that the port call will push forward the military and civilian exchanges and promote the Sino-Japanese friendly ties. We hope the sea between China and Japan could be changed into a sea of peace and friendship," he added.


Brass bands from the two sides offered a joint performance on the bank. A little bit different from their Japanese counterparts, Chinese soldiers sang several songs, whose melodies are popular in Japan. The innovative style was much praised by a group of students from a Yokohama-based Chinese language school.


"Chinese soldiers are handsome," said six-grader Fang Lingyan, who was born in Japan. She said she cherish the opportunity to have a close watch of the warship and felt "proud and blessed."


"I come to take some pictures and share them with my former Chinese students," said a 74-year-old Japanese man, who used to teach Japanese in Zhaoqing city of Guangdong Province. Holding a Chinese national flag, the senior said he was informed of the wonderful event by his former students through email.


At a press conference held shortly after on "Shenzhen," Ambassador Cui Tiankai encouraged foreign journalists to watch with their own eyes to know more about Chinese soldiers and their style.


While Rear Admiral Xiao was meeting with Japanese officials and visiting MSDF warship and facilities, Chinese crew members were showed around central Tokyo for sightseeing and went to a famous electronic products street for shopping.


During the visit through Dec. 1, Chinese crew members will conduct a variety of exchanges, including a soccer match, with their Japanese counterparts. The two sides will open their ships to the public from Thursday and plan to offer a joint bands performance for the civilians in a Tokyo park.


(Xinhua News Agency November 29, 2007)

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