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Japanese ship's arrival marks significant event
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People walking along the seafront of Zhanjiang today will find it quite different – all navy ships in port will be decorated with colorful flags to signal a significant diplomatic event.

The first Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (SDF) ship to visit China will arrive here, headquarters of the South China Sea Fleet, this afternoon.

Sources told China Daily that the Shenzhen, a missile destroyer which visited Japan in November as the first Chinese military ship to visit the near neighbor, will lead the 4,650-ton Japanese ship, Sazanami, into port.

After a welcoming ceremony by top naval officers and the city of Zhanjiang, the Sazanami, with a crew of about 240, will deliver 300 blankets and 2,600 emergency food items for victims in the quake in Sichuan province.

It will be the first time for the SDF to deliver relief supplies to China following the May 12 quake.

More than 500 local residents will be allowed to visit the Sazanami during its five-day stay, an official with the Chinese navy headquarters, said. He declined to give his name.

Despite the historical imbroglio between China and Japan, local residents are taking the visit calmly.

"I learnt of the news through the newspapers about a month ago. Many Chinese people, including me, are not averse to the visit. We are, to some extent, more curious about the Japanese ship," Xu Feng, lobby manager of the Yihai International Hotel, said.

"The change in people's attitude toward Japan must be attributed to that country's help to China following the quake," Xu said.

It follows President Hu Jintao's visit to Japan in May and an agreement on exploration of resources in the East China Sea reached last week.

In another friendly move, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said on Wednesday he will try to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

Japanese media have attached high importance to the visit of the Sazanami by sending more than 60 reporters to cover the event.

(China Daily June 24, 2008)

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