BEIJING (AP) — More than 10 countries including Russia will join China for a massive military parade through central Beijing next month commemorating the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan in World War II, Chinese officials said Friday.
The parade is widely seen as a public display of the People's Liberation Army's fast-growing capabilities, and comes as China is becoming more active in asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Those moves have prompted its neighbors to boost their own capabilities and the U.S. military to renew its commitment to regional allies.
The foreign troops joining in the parade are from countries in Asia, Europe, Africa the Americas and Oceana, parade deputy commander Qu Rui told a news conference in Beijing. He mentioned by name only Russia and Kazakhstan and said more information will be released later.
"Their participation in the parade is a clear indication of their attitude of commemorating the victory of the world anti-fascist war jointly, and a symbol of the aspiration for and pursuit of enduring world peace," Qu said.
Qu said 12,000 troops will take part in the Sept. 3 event, showcasing 500 pieces of equipment of about 40 different types along with almost 200 aircraft of more than 20 types, Qu said. China's last such military parade was in 2009 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.
Asked whether there was an anti-Japanese element to the parade, Qu said the war had brought great suffering to both the people of Japan and of Asia, but that the event aimed to look toward the future.
"This is not directed at any third parties," Qu said.
China says it has sent invitations to numerous heads of state but thus far only Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and Czech President Milos Zeman have accepted, along with unidentified leaders from Cental Asian states, according to state media.
Participation is considered problematic because many nations, including those from Britain, have recently criticized China's aggressive military moves in the seas on its periphery, including building new, military significant islands in the South China Sea.
There is also concern that the parade is being used to build international support for China in its ongoing rivalry with Japan, which many Chinese say has never showed adequate contrition for its brutal invasion of China.
There are also questions about the optics of foreign leaders attending a military parade adjacent to Tiananmen Square, the heart of 1989's student-led pro-democracy movement that was bloodily suppressed by the People's Liberation Army. China refuses to investigate the crackdown independently and justified it to preserve national unity.
China is promoting its participation in the war like never before, part of President Xi Jinping'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. The Nationalists were later defeated by the communists in the civil war that resumed after the allied victory in 1945, prompting them to flee to the island of Taiwan in 1949.