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Saturday, May 31, 2008
SDF quake-relief airlift to China is ruled out
By MASAMI ITO
Acknowledging apprehension in China, Japan has dropped plans to send Self-Defense Forces aircraft to China to transport emergency supplies to earthquake survivors, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said Friday.
"We took into consideration the fact that some people in China were growing cautious about (sending) SDF aircraft," Machimura said.
"After a discussion between the Chinese and Japanese (governments), we have decided to put off dispatching the SDF aircraft for the transport" of supplies.
Government sources said Wednesday that China had asked Japan to help carry emergency supplies to victims of the magnitude-7.9 earthquake that struck Sichuan Province on May 12. The death toll from the quake has reached nearly 70,000 and is expected to rise, while millions have been left homeless. Machimura said Friday that Beijing had unofficially sounded out Japan on "the idea of using the SDF."
However, the dispatch threatened to stir memories of Japan's invasion and occupation of Asia in the last century.
Rather than use SDF aircraft, Machimura said Japan will charter commercial planes, although no delivery schedule has been set.
Machimura added that he doesn't think not sending the SDF will have a negative effect on bilateral relations.
"On humanitarian grounds, we considered what would be the fastest way to deliver the necessary supplies, and I think that (China) consulted with Japan on the same grounds," Machimura said. "This is not worth causing friction, so we need to take things into careful consideration."
Later Friday, Machimura said Japan plans to give China up to another ¥500 million in supplies as additional aid.
In the first package to be sent early next week by chartered planes, Machimura said they have gathered 1,200 tents from the government, the SDF and Hyogo and Aichi prefectures.