Japanese aid flights considered

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2008, 12:00am

Japan was considering sending several C130 military transport aircraft to help airlift rescue materials to victims of the Sichuan earthquake after a request from Beijing, a source close to the Japanese Ministry of Defence said yesterday.

The proposal, if accepted by Beijing, would signal a great leap forward in the Sino-Japanese relationship and would be the first time since the second world war that Japanese military aircraft, and possibly personnel, would enter China.

Because of the sensitive nature of the mission - many Chinese are still angry over the Japanese army's wartime atrocities - the two sides had to carefully study details to avoid any negative impacts, the source said. The source said the aircraft would avoid landing in Sichuan. Supplies could be lifted into Beijing and Shanghai and then be taken to Sichuan by other means, he said.

'Since Sichuan was air-raided by the Japanese air force during the war, we have to take local people's emotional reaction into consideration. The two countries are seriously reviewing the situation,' he said.

Tomohiko Taniguchi, deputy secretary of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed yesterday that China made the request for rescue materials such as tents, blankets, emergency and medical equipment on Tuesday. 'The Chinese government mentioned the possible use of military aircraft to airlift the materials to be included as an option,' he said. Mr Taniguchi said a final decision had yet to be made on whether to use military aircraft, and the routes of their mission.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry was unable to provide any comment last night. Disputes triggered by Japan's wartime past have been a major source of tension. Many mainlanders are still deeply scarred by memories of atrocities by Japanese troops during the war. But ties have warmed in recent years with efforts by leaders to improve co-operation between the governments, and on business and cultural fronts.

At a glance

68,109 confirmed dead

19,852 missing

364,552 injured

34.7b yuan in donations received from home and abroad

Source: Xinhua