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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 November 2007, 06:35 GMT
Chinese warship arrives in Japan
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Performers celebrate the Chinese naval missile destroyer Shenzhen as it docks in Tokyo on Wednesday
The visit was previously delayed as relations hit a rocky patch
A Chinese warship has arrived in Japan for the first time since World War II.

The crew of the missile destroyer Shenzhen will spend four days in Tokyo, taking part in various events to promote good bilateral relations.

Relations between the Chinese and the Japanese have been improving over the last year, in spite of worries in Japan about China's militarisation.

The ship has been described by China's ambassador to Tokyo, Cui Tiankai, as a "messenger of peace".

There was much pomp and pageantry as the Chinese warship dropped anchor in Tokyo Bay.

Japan last received a port call from a Chinese naval vessel in 1934.

Building trust

Such visits, though symbolic, are important.

There is much concern in Japan about China's military build-up. A senior Chinese officer, speaking in Tokyo, insisted that China's efforts to modernise its armed forces were transparent and designed with self-defence in mind.

Rear Admiral Xiao Xinnian, captain of the Chinese warship Shenzhen, as it docks in Tokyo on Wednesday
The visit seeks to promote goodwill between the two countries

The chance for senior officials from both countries to meet like this can help to build a sense of trust.

The two countries first agreed to arrange the visit seven years ago.

But when, a year later, Japan's former Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, started making annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine - a place the Chinese believe glorifies past militarism - the plans were put on hold.

Relations between the two countries began to improve after Mr Koizumi stepped down last year.

Tensions endure

There are still tensions in the region though.

Earlier this month China embarrassed the US by refusing to allow one of its aircraft carriers and its battle group to dock in Hong Kong.

The stopover had been planned for months and Chinese officials refused to explain the change of mind.

Many of the crew's family members had flown from the US for the Thanksgiving holiday visit and their plans were ruined.

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