Thursday, June 19, 2008
A Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer carrying earthquake relief supplies will call at a Chinese port for the first time next week on a reciprocal visit after a Chinese Navy vessel visited Japan last year, Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba announced. The destroyer Sazanami will visit Zhanjiang in China's southern Guangdong Province from June 24 to 28, Ishiba said. It will be the first time for an MSDF vessel to visit China. The MSDF plans for the Sazanami to carry relief supplies for victims of last month's devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province. Supplies will include 300 Self-Defense Forces blankets, about 2,600 emergency canned meals, and medical supplies such as flu masks and adhesive bandages. After the earthquake, the government considered transporting aid items such as tents to stricken areas on Air Self-Defense Force transport planes. But it abandoned this plan after consulting with the Chinese government which was concerned about a backlash in public opinion over the proposed deployment. Transporting the relief supplies by the Sazanami is seen as an alternative to carrying the aid by ASDF aircraft.
JDS Sazanami DD-113 departs at Kure port for ChinaThe destroyer's visit to Zhanjiang is part of an agreement made during talks in August between the two countries' defense ministers. They decided that both MSDF and Chinese Navy ships would make alternate visits to each other's country. In November, the missile destroyer Shenzhen became the first Chinese vessel to call at a Japanese port under the agreement. The MSDF originally planned for the Sazanami to visit Zhanjiang, where the Chinese Navy's South Sea Fleet is based, early this month, but the plan was put on hold after the earthquake. Meanwhile, Ishiba said he is making arrangements for a visit to China in mid-July. In a joint Japan-China statement made when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Japan in May, it was agreed that the defense minister would visit China before the end of the year. The visit would entail talks with the Chinese defense minister and other officials in Beijing. During the visit, Ishiba plans to discuss matters such as security in East Asia, as well as demanding a guarantee of transparency over China's ballooning defense expenditure. The minister also is considering an inspection of China's People's Liberation Army troops. The visit would be his first to China since September 2003, when he visited in the capacity of director general of the then Defense Agency.