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Japanese navy warship leaves Zhanjiang
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After a five-day visit to China, Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer "Sazanami" left the southern Guangdong Province port city of Zhanjiang on Saturday morning.

Sazanami, with its 240-member crew, is the first Japanese warship to visit China since World War II.

A farewell ceremony was held at the port before its departure.

"Please send the love and friendship of the Chinese navy and people back to Japan," Lt. Gen. Su Shiliang, commander of the South Sea Fleet, said to Major-Gen. Shinichi Tokumaru of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Su added the reciprocal visits symbolized an important step in the communication between the China and Japan defense forces.

Before heading back to Japan, the destroyer will have a drill with the Chinese navy in the sea area near Zhanjiang. It will focus on communication and formation.

During its five days in port, the Japanese crew visited the Chinese missile destroyer "Shenzhen" and toured Zhanjiang's urban area. They also played basketball, football and tug-of-war with the Chinese crew in the rain that has blasted southern China of late.

In addition, officers from both sides held seminars to exchange experiences in disaster relief and other activities.

About 1,000 locals visited the Sazanami with smiles and excitement since it was opened to the public on Friday. Chinese and Japanese military bands also gave live performances for visitors with the Chinese Peking Opera and the theme of evergreen Japanese cartoon "Doraemon" on the playlist.

The destroyer with a 4,650 standard tonnage, set off from Hiroshima for the reciprocal visit. The Shenzhen destroyer docked in Japan late last year.

The Japanese warship arrived in Zhanjiang on Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, its crew unloaded disaster-relief goods including food, blankets, hygiene masks, disinfectant and other items it had brought for the quake-hit areas in southwest China.

China and Japan, neighboring countries separated by water, have been friends and rivals for thousands of years.

The sea has been a major channel in their history of exchange. Xu Fu, a Chinese religious figure, led a team to Japan and mixed with the natives on the islands 2,000 years ago. About 1,000 years ago, Jianzhen, a Chinese monk, was invited by the Japanese to spread the splendid Chinese culture in the territory.

But as Japan rapidly became a major power in the region during the 19th century, a battle broke out between the two countries on the sea in 1894, with the failure of the Chinese fleet. An unequal treaty was signed between China and Japan as consequence.

During 1931 and 1945, Japanese troops invaded China and the war lasted until the end of the World War II.

Resentment still remains between the two nations as there are disputes on history, sovereignty and the exploration of resources under the sea.

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

(Xinhua News Agency June 28, 2008)

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