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Japanese warship visits China for 1st time in more than 7 years

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Suzutsuki arrives at China's Qingdao port on April 21, 2019, to attend a fleet review ceremony. (Kyodo)

QINGDAO, China (Kyodo) -- A Japanese destroyer arrived in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao on Sunday to attend a naval review, marking the first visit to China by a Japanese warship in more than seven years and reflecting a thaw in bilateral relations.

    The Maritime Self-Defense Force's destroyer Suzutsuki sailed into port flying the national flag of Japan at the bow, the Chinese flag above the bridge, and the rising sun flag, the Japanese naval ensign, fluttering at the stern.

    Beijing gave silent approval to the hoisting of the controversial rising sun flag to avoid a dispute ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's scheduled visit to Japan in June.

    The Chinese stance on the flag contrasts with that of South Korea. Regarding the flag as a symbol of Japan's wartime aggression, Seoul demanded that Tokyo refrain from flying it at a naval review in October in South Korea. The request led to Tokyo's cancellation of its participation.

    The Suzutsuki, the first Japanese destroyer dispatched to China since December 2011, is among warships from more than 10 countries that will take part in the review near Qingdao on Tuesday, which will be held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the foundation of China's navy.

    MSDF destroyers and Chinese warships made mutual visits from 2007 to 2011, but the exchanges came to a halt in 2012 when the Japanese government brought the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, called Diaoyu in China, under state control, straining bilateral ties.

    Xi is expected to make his first visit to Japan as China's leader to attend a Group of 20 summit to be held in Osaka in late June.

    The rising sun flag was used by the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy before and during World War II. It is now used as the official flag of MSDF ships.

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