Page last updated at 06:25 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 07:25 UK

Japan plans China relief flight

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

A young boy sits outside a temporary tent shelter in Pengzhou, Sichuan province, on 23 May 2008
Japan says China has asked for tents and other supplies to be sent

Japan plans to despatch a military plane with relief supplies for the victims of the earthquake in China.

Sending members of what Japan calls its "self-defence forces", or SDF, is controversial.

Reports suggest some in China fear it may trigger a backlash among people who remember Japan's war-time militarism.

More than 68,000 people died in the earthquake that struck Sichuan province on 12 May. Another 20,000 are missing and five million people are homeless.

Symbolic flight

Television stations in Japan have shown grainy footage of Japanese planes during the war bombarding the area close to where the quake struck earlier this month.

They say the planned despatch of an air self-defence force C-130 cargo plane will be the first flight into Chinese airspace by the Japanese military since hostilities ended more than 60 years ago.

An SDF advance team is expected to head to China soon to sort out the details of the plan.

Japanese ministers are stressing that China asked for tents, blankets and other supplies and accepted they would be brought in by the military.

It appears, though, that the Japanese will not be asked to transport the aid around the country.

The flight will be hugely symbolic.

For some it is evidence of the improving ties between the two countries.

Others, though, could be offended, especially those who suffered under the Japanese occupation of China during World War II.

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