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China mum on foreign invites to military parade

June 23, 2015

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese organizers of a parade marking the end of World War II were keeping mum Tuesday over the sensitive question of which foreign countries’ militaries had been invited to take part.

The Sept. 3 event will include a speech and troop inspection by president and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, who also heads China’s armed forces.

War veterans and their descendants will also receive medals marking the 70th anniversary of victory in what China calls the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.

Parade organizers at a news conference stressed the significance of inviting foreign participants, but offered no details, saying those discussions were ongoing.

“The invitation to foreign militaries showed the wish of China and all other peoples to safeguard world peace,” Qu Rui, deputy director of parade steering group office, told reporters.

Observers say some foreign participants may face a difficult choice between offending Beijing by not taking part or taking part and appearing to endorse China’s growing military that can be seen as putting teeth behind its forceful assertions to territorial claims in the East China and South China Seas.

Sensitivities also surround the venue for the parade — Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing where the Chinese army carried out a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989.

China is promoting its participation in the war like never before, part of Xi’s drive to stir patriotism and place China at the top table of international diplomacy.

Chinese Nationalist forces under then-President Chiang Kai-shek battled Japanese invaders virtually alone from 1937 until the U.S. entry into the war in 1941. Chiang’s forces were later defeated by the communists in the civil war that resumed after the allies’ victory in 1945, prompting them to flee to the island of Taiwan in 1949.

Surviving Nationalist veterans will be invited to the commemorations, Qu said, adding that they had “played an important role” in the war.

That reflects the government’s insistence that Mao Zedong’s ragtag communist forces constituted the bulk of the resistance to the Japanese army. Most scholars disagree, saying the communists helped tie down Japanese forces through guerrilla actions, but took little part in major engagements.

Qu said Chinese troops have already begun training for the parade at bases around Beijing. He said China would display home-made weaponry currently in service with the 2.3 million-member People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest standing military.

Update hourly