BEIJING – China has invited leaders from more than 50 countries to a ceremony on Sept. 3 to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, but most of them are still undecided about their participation, diplomatic sources said Thursday.
While no Western leaders have confirmed their attendance, only a limited number of countries, including Cuba, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, have so far told China that they plan to be part of the event celebrating what it calls its day of victory in a war of resistance against Japan’s aggression, the sources said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will oversee a military parade in Tiananmen Square and deliver a speech that day.
China says it has invited the leaders of “all relevant countries” to the war commemoration to “remember history, commemorate the martyrs, cherish peace and look to the future.”
Yet China has not officially disclosed how many and which countries have been invited to the ceremony.
China is hoping to secure the attendance of as many leaders as possible from Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Latin America, in addition to Europe and its neighboring countries such as Japan, North Korea and South Korea, according to the sources.
“As to whether to attend the event, we will decide after Japanese Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe releases his statement to mark the 70th anniversary and how that will affect Japan’s relations with China,” said a diplomat from a Southeast Asian country, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Japan’s long-frosty relations with China, due to disputes over territory and different views on wartime history, have been thawing in recent months.
Still, this year is seen as highly sensitive for the future of bilateral relations, and China has been carefully watching what Abe will say in the statement he is due to issue around Aug. 15, the day Japan’s surrender to the Allied Powers was announced in 1945.
In the words of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, historical issues still “haunt the Sino-Japanese relationship.”
China has been urging Abe, seen by critics as a historical revisionist, to uphold Japan’s past apologies, such as those expressed in key statements on the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the war’s end, which used the terms “colonial rule” and “aggression.”
However, Abe has suggested that there is not much point in repeating the same wording in his upcoming statement, which should instead be more future-oriented.
Like Western leaders, Abe has no plans to attend the parade in Tiananmen Square in the heart of the Chinese capital, where hundreds, if not thousands, of people were killed in 1989 in a military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.
But Abe is considering visiting China either before or after Sept. 3, for what could be his third set of talks with Xi, according to officials close to the premier.
The last major military parade in China was held in 2009 to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Since its foundation on Oct. 1, 1949, China has staged 14 national day military parades, but not on the war anniversary of Sept. 3, the day after Japan signed the formal surrender document.
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