Already, some in Tacloban said they would not mind more American boots on the ground temporarily, if it would help.
China's rise has been shifting geopolitics in the region for years. The country's ability and general willingness to invest and provide foreign aid have had a powerful effect on even some countries worried of being overwhelmed by their imposing regional neighbor — a dynamic that is likely to continue.
(Read more: Typhoon wasour 'Black Swan:' Philippine exchange)
But China's increasing power has also in some cases worked against it, including in the Philippines, where the bitter battle over a string of uninhabited islets and reefs has softened the wariness of Japan and the bitter memories of World War II, when Japan invaded.
In announcing their assistance Thursday, Japanese officials focused their remarks on the humanitarian crisis.
More from the New York Times:
Ravaged by Typhoon, Philippines Faces Threat of Serious Diseases
China Increases Aid to Philippines
Overshadowed by Tacloban, Other Devastated Philippine Cities Fear Aid Will Not Come
"The Philippines is geographically close to Japan and an important strategic partner," Japan's defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, said.
However, the Philippines was also one of the countries where Japan has been focusing its attention as it seeks to take up some of the slack left by American military budget cuts by assuming a larger role in humanitarian and other non-conflict-related military actions.
Japan has already provided the country with new coast guard vessels to better patrol its waters, including those contested with China. On Thursday, officials said Japan's military would dispatch C-130 transport aircraft and helicopters, as well as medical teams, to ferry supplies to areas that have been cut off by the disaster. Japan will also send three navy ships, led by the Ise, Japan's largest warship, a helicopter-carrying destroyer with a flight deck that makes it look like a mini aircraft carrier. Tokyo also offered $10 million in emergency aid.
(Read more: Logistical 'logjam' prevents aid from reaching typhoon-hit Philippines)
As more countries came forward with impressive aid packages — and after days of ignoring criticism that it was offering too little aid — China on Thursday said it would increase its assistance. The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said that China had never intended the amount of assistance to remain fixed, and insisted that it had adjusted its contribution according to burgeoning needs. "An overwhelming majority of Chinese people are sympathetic with the people of the Philippines," he said.
Analysts, however, said one factor in determining the initial size of the gift was the hostility among Chinese Internet commentators toward foreign aid, and to help for the Philippines in particular.
"There must have been a debate" inside the government about how much aid to give and how to supply it, said Qin Yaqing, professor of international studies at the Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. "Chinese culture takes an incremental way of doing things so as not to cause more trouble with the domestic" audience, he said.
In an unusual turn, the newspaper Global Times, which often projects a nationalist editorial line, criticized the initial offer of aid as too small. In an editorial on Tuesday, it noted that the Philippines was a two-hour flight from China's southern coast, but that countries much farther away responded quickly.
"A twisted relationship between the two countries caused by maritime disputes is not the reason to block joint efforts to combat natural disaster," the editorial said.