World News

Japan military to provide China quake aid

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s military will fly tents and blankets to China after Beijing asked for help following the devastating earthquake this month that killed more than 68,000 people, Kyodo news agency said on Wednesday.

Japanese government officials said earlier they had received a request from China for military assistance on Tuesday and were considering their response.

Japanese military personnel have not been deployed in China since the end of World War Two. Sino-Japanese ties, long troubled by their bitter wartime past, have been on the mend in recent months.

“There was a request from the Chinese side to our embassy in Beijing yesterday. It asked for relief materials and transport, including from the Self-Defence Forces,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference on Wednesday. Japan refers to its military as “Self-Defence Forces” (SDF).

“It is not entirely clear, but I think they want SDF tents and blankets to be transported to a Chinese airport by SDF planes,” Machimura said. He added that he had heard requests had been made to other countries.

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.

Ties improved after Koizumi 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.

Reporting by Teruaki Ueno and Isabel Reynolds; Editing by Valerie Lee