BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Defense Ministry said on Thursday that it will likely invite military representatives from the Western Allies who fought with China during World War Two to march in a parade in Beijing later this year to mark 70 years since the war's end.
Beijing's commemorations, likely to be held in September, will include a military parade, but the government has been coy about exactly who it has invited, though Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend.
"The countries you have named are the same as those which ought to be within the scope of the countries we are considering inviting," ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng told a monthly news briefing, when asked if the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand would be invited to the parade.
"The military parade we are organizing is an international event, not only a Chinese one. So, what is different from before, is that this time is we have invited some countries leaders to watch it, and invited some countries' militaries to send soldiers to participate."
He would not elaborate on which countries exactly had been invited, or if any had given a positive response. He also declined to give details on what form the parade will take.
"In the past, state-level military parades have been held in Tiananmen Square. At present I have not heard any news that it will be held elsewhere," Geng said, referring to the landmark at the heart of the Chinese capital.
Chinese soldiers will attend a parade in Russia in May to mark the end of the World War Two in Europe, he added.
China's military parade will be President Xi Jinping's first since he took over as Communist Party and military chief in late 2012 and as state president in early 2013.
Troops are already drilling in secret on the outskirts of Beijing for the event, sources have told Reuters. [ID:nL4N0VM6VA]
Sino-Japan relations have long been poisoned by what China sees as Japan's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of the country before and during the war, and Beijing rarely misses an opportunity to remind its people and the world of this.
In the last two years, ties have also deteriorated sharply because of a dispute over a chain of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, though Chinese and Japanese leaders met in Beijing last year to try to reset relations.
Geng said the parade was to "remember history, cherish martyrs, treasure peace and usher in the future".
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)