Revulsion at Japan’s wartime past — particularly the Imperial Army’s atrocities in China — continues to play an explosive role in Asian politics. Relations between Tokyo and Beijing have been improving, and China has already welcomed teams of Japanese medical experts to help with the quake.
Even optimists, however, did not predict that the thaw would be so rapid as to ever put Japanese military boots on the ground in China.
But the devastating tremors and its punishing aftermath have caused China to break starkly with the past in many ways: for the time being at least, Beijing has suspended its habit of secrecy and insularity around natural disasters and allowed the outside world to join in the relief efforts.
According to Japanese foreign ministry sources, the country’s military — what it refers to for constitutional reasons as its “Self Defence Forces” — has been included in a wider request from China for aircraft and to help to transport additional relief materials as China continues to cope with the situation on the ground in Sichuan.
[The Times - China and Japan: earthquake diplomacy<br/> China's invitation to Japanese troops will change relations in Asia](http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leadingarticle/article4023094.ece
Three week later there has been an extraordinary breakthrough in Sino-Japanese relations unthinkable two months ago: an invitation from Beijing to Japanese soldiers to set foot on Chinese soil for the first time since the Second World War. The Chinese President’s request for their help in airlifting tents and relief supplies to the region devastated by the earthquake breaks one of the oldest and most emotional taboos in postwar Asian politics. It has, however, taken the catastrophe of the earthquake to translate the subsequent goodwill into a momentous diplomatic initiative. China turned first to Japan for emergency aid and has welcomed medical teams sent swiftly to the disaster area. But as the scale of the tragedy becomes more apparent and the threat grows of further deaths from aftershocks and flooding from the rupture of dams caused by rockfalls, the Chinese leadership is swiftly casting aside old habits of secrecy and insularity. The unprecedented access granted to foreign relief teams, the television reports from the area and the visits of China’s leaders have changed the national mood.
Nowhere has this sudden shift of political tectonics shaken assumptions as much as in Japan. The Chinese Communist Party had long used the bogey of a hostile Japan as a way of rallying public opinion, exploiting wartime memories and missing no opportunity to lambast Japan for its supposed lack of contrition and resurgent nationalism.
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