BEIJING (AP) — China is ramping up publicity for its upcoming massive military parade commemorating the end of World War II, but officials still aren't saying what other countries are taking part.
Propaganda officials escorted foreign journalists Saturday on a tour of a military base outside Beijing, where troops are practicing for the Sept. 3 spectacle that will feature 12,000 soldiers and 500 pieces of China's latest military gear.
Almost 200 aircraft of about 20 different types will also the part.
Reporters observed hundreds of troops in dress uniform and full battle attire engaging in eight hours of daily marching practice along a tarmac strip similar to the avenue they will march down in the heart of Beijing.
With officers watching closely, they balanced on one foot before stepping forward on command, then swiveled 90 degrees to march back the way they'd come.
China says more than 10 countries from Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas and Oceana will send contingents to join in, but has so far only identified Russia and Kazakhstan as among them.
China insists the parade is about marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender, remembering the sacrifices of past generations and demonstrating its commitment to future peace.
"This is not about extending hatred, but about reflecting on history and facing the future," the head trainer of the parade's infantry component, Col. Liu Shijun, told reporters.
Despite that, the parade is widely seen as a high-profile display of the People's Liberation Army's fast-growing capabilities, and comes as China is growing more active in asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
Those moves have prompted its concerned neighbors to boost their own capabilities, and the U.S. military to renew its commitments to regional allies.
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.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has said she will attend a ceremony marking the anniversary of victory over Japan in World War II, but aides says she remains undecided on attending the military parade.
Participation is considered problematic because many nations have recently expressed concern over China's aggressive military moves. China has also actively courted international support for its ongoing rivalry with Japan, which many Chinese say has never showed adequate contrition for its brutal World War II invasion of China.
China's last such military parade was in 2009 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.