Page last updated at 10:28 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 11:28 UK

Japan warship begins China visit

The Sazanami leaves Japan for China on 19 June 2008
The Sazanami is carrying supplies for victims of the Sichuan earthquake

A Japanese warship has arrived in southern China for a five-day port call, the first such visit by a Japanese navy ship since World War II.

The Sazanami sailed into port in the city of Zhanjiang seven months after a Chinese warship, the Shenzhen, visited Japan.

The reciprocal port calls were agreed at a meeting last year between senior military figures from the two nations.

This one comes amid improvements in the often tense China-Japan relationship.

Earlier this month, the two sides struck a deal to jointly develop gas fields both claim in the East China Sea, resolving a protracted bilateral dispute.

That agreement followed a visit to Japan in May by Chinese President Hu Jintao, the first by a Chinese leader in a decade.

'Friendship and trust'

Chinese state television showed pictures of the Sazanami, a destroyer, arriving in port.

The Japanese vessel is carrying relief supplies for the victims of last month's Sichuan earthquake.

The crew will hand over 300 blankets, more than 2,500 pre-packaged meals and hygiene masks during their stay.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao rejected the idea that the visit could ignite lingering anti-Japanese sentiment.

The visit would "help enhance the friendship and mutual trust between the two countries", he told a news conference in Beijing.

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