Beijing rehearses for massive military parade

Beijing, August 23

Fighter jets flew low over Beijing today as thousands of soldiers from China, Russia and other countries rehearsed for a military parade next month commemorating the end of World War II.

The September 3 parade will showcase the People’s Liberation Army’s rapidly growing capabilities at a time when Beijing is asserting territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

The city centre was closed to the public, but photos on social media showed Chinese missile carriers rolling through Tiananmen Square and troops carrying the flags of Cuba, Fiji, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Pakistan. Military helicopters flew over forming the figure “70.”

More than 10,000 Chinese military personnel with more than 500 vehicles and some 200 aircraft took part in the rehearsal, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The Chinese military plans to show seven types of long-, intermediate- and short-range missiles at the parade, Xinhua said. It cited a military official as saying 84 per cent of armaments to be displayed have not been shown in public previously. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Mexico also plan to participate, according to state media. China says the parade is about marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender and demonstrating its commitment to peace. But it comes as other governments are expressing unease at Beijing’s confrontational stance towards territorial disputes. That has made taking part in the event politically charged.

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj of Mongolia, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic have accepted invitations to attend, along with unidentified leaders from Central Asia, according to state media.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has said she would attend a ceremony marking the anniversary of victory over Japan in World War II, but aides say she has yet to decide whether to attend the military parade.

The 75-member Mexican military delegation will include officers and cadets from the country’s military, naval and air force colleges, according to Xinhua.

“With this event, we want to help Mexico become a player with global responsibility,” the commander of the delegation, Jose Carlos Luna Loaeza, was quoted as saying.

Beijing also is actively courting support for its rivalry with Japan, which many Chinese say has never showed adequate contrition for its World War II invasion of China.

On Saturday, propaganda officials took foreign reporters to a military base outside Beijing where hundreds of troops in dress uniforms and battle attire marched along a tarmac strip. China’s last such military parade was in 2009 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.