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Japanese warship welcomed by Chinese amid warming ties
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Jin Huixin, a 30-year-old Shanghai middle school teacher, had been waiting for a chance to visit a Japanese warship for many years. He realized his dream when the Japanese navy destroyer "Sazanami" arrived on a five-day visit to China.

"I have seen 23 warships from 15 countries that had come to visit China, but I never had a chance to see a Japanese warship."

The big fan of warships flew to Zhanjiang to see the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer. Braving the drizzle on Wednesday morning in the southern Guangdong Province, he went on board the ship and had a close look at major weapons such as "vertical launch system" and "close-in weapon system", all of which were tagged with name signs in glass and aluminum picture frames.

He smiled and posed for a photo besides a paper-board portrait of a legendary Japanese boy, a lucky symbol for the ship. Many Chinese soldiers who came to visit the ship did the same thing.

"Sazanami" with its 240-member crew, is the first Japanese warship to visit China since World War II. Despite the Japanese national flag on the ship, which still brings the memory of Japanese military atrocities alive to many Chinese, the warship also brings smiles to all the visitors at the site.

"This is a sign that the Chinese are more confident and they are aspiring to build friendly and peaceful relations with their most acrimonious enemy in the battle field more than six decades ago," said Professor Gao Hong of the Institute of Japanese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The warship's visit shows that China and Japan have accepted each other, and will promote a strategic, mutual beneficial relationship in the 21st Century," Professor Gao added.

The military exchange came after another breakthrough in Sino-Japanese relations as a result of President Hu's landmark visit to Japan earlier this year. The two countries announced last week they reached principled consensus on the East China Sea issue and Japanese companies are allowed in the development of Chunxiao oil and gas field.

The charcoal grey Japanese warship berthed alongside the silver grey Chinese warship "Shenzhen" at the dock of Zhanjiang. The Chinese and Japanese navy personnel, all clad in white uniforms, visited each other's ships.

Apart from the exchange of visits, officers from both sides will hold seminars to exchange experience on disaster relief and other activities. "Sazanami" is also open to visits for local residents.

Japanese officers reminded the visitors the rain had made the decks slippery, and they could choose to walk on the non-slip gangways in the middle of the decks.

"I'm especially interested in the missile system on the ship," the Shanghai teacher Jin said, "Japan invaded us before, but now the relationship is peaceful and we should look forward to the future."

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