China seeks Japan military help after quake
Friday, 30 May 2008

REUTERS, TOKYO- China has asked Japan to send its military to help with rescue operations after a devastating earthquake this month that killed more than 67,000 people, Japan's foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Tokyo is considering its response to the request, which came on Tuesday, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

It would be the first time Japan's military had been deployed in China since the end of the World War Two. Sino-Japanese ties, long troubled by their bitter wartime past, have been on the mend in recent months.

"The Chinese government has submitted a new request regarding provision of relief materials as well as transportation means, including that possibly to be extended by the SDF," said Hiroshi Suzuki, the ministry's deputy spokesman. Japan refers to its military as "Self-Defence Forces" (SDF).

Kyodo news agency said China had sounded out Tokyo about sending military planes to the quake-stricken area.

Sino-Japanese ties chilled during Junichiro Koizumi's 2001-2006 term as Japan's prime minister over his visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni war shrine, seen by critics as an offensive symbol of wartime misdeeds.

They improved after he stepped down and relations between the two Asian giants have further warmed up since Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Japan earlier this month, the first state visit in a decade by a Chinese leader.

Shortly after the May 12 quake, Japan sent rescue teams and a medical team to the devastated region.

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