BEIJING – China’s planned military parade to mark the end of World War II is likely to be held at the site Japan attacked in 1937 to trigger the Second Sino-Japanese War, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the plan.
The September parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat will probably be held at a square next to Beijing’s Marco Polo bridge, rather than at Tiananmen Square, where military processions are traditionally held, said the officials, who asked not to be named as the plan isn’t public.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan is gathering information on the parade.
“Rather than an attitude that emphasizes the past of 70 years ago, it’s more important for Japan and China to have a forward-looking relationship that focuses on the problems facing international society now,” the top government spokesman told reporters.
While the parade itself risks straining relations between China and Japan, the planned location could further damage ties. Asia’s two largest economies dispute the sovereignty of Japan-administered islets in the East China Sea, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe angered China in 2013 when he visited a Tokyo shrine that honors the nation’s war dead, along with convicted Class-A war criminals, that is seen in China as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
The government in Beijing plans to invite world leaders to the “grand commemorations” of China’s “War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression as well as the World Anti-Fascist War,” the Foreign Ministry said on its website on March 2. The site in the Lugouqiao area is home to the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.
“It’s a way of showing that they have absolutely no interest in improving relations with Japan,” said Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University Japan Campus. “Rather than symbolizing the defeat of the Fascists, the Axis, it would commemorate the victory over Japan because Marco Polo bridge has nothing to do with the Fuhrer or Mussolini.”
The government favors holding the parade at Lugouqiao, but will make the final decision based on a security review, one of the officials said. The parade won’t be as big a show of military hardware as processions held for China National Day, and foreign governments will be invited to send troops, they said.
While former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi laid a wreath at the memorial in 2001, ties between the countries have been frosty under Abe, whose grandfather was a member of the wartime Cabinet. China has also raised concerns about Abe’s plans to strengthen the Self-Defense Forces and ease the pacifist constraints of its Constitution, which was imposed on the country by the U.S. after the war.
Abe is weighing the wording of a statement he will make in August to mark the 70th anniversary of a war that killed millions of Chinese before Japan’s surrender in 1945. Abe has hinted he may water down previous expressions of remorse in the declaration, recently based on the 1995 Murayama statement, risking an angry response from both China and South Korea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on March 8 said that it was time for Japan to “make a clean break with the past” and stop “carrying the baggage of history.” Even so, Wang also signaled that China was open to improved ties and may invite Abe to the parade.
China’s legislature in February last year ratified a motion to declare Sept. 3 as “Victory Day of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.” The legislators also declared Dec. 13 as “National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims,” to highlight the atrocities committed by Japan in the city, then known as Nanking, during their eight-year war.
Last July, Xi became the first Chinese leader to attend the official commemoration of the start of the Sino-Japanese war, criticizing Japan’s wartime aggression in a speech broadcast live to the country. China also published an official list of 300 “Anti-Japanese Heroes” who died in the war.
On a visit to Tokyo this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a veiled message for the two nations.
Standing beside Abe, Merkel hinted that Japan could do more to deal with its war legacy and reconcile with its neighbors. She also said that “reconciliation always requires two sides.”