Top officials from the European Union probably won't attend a Chinese military parade marking the anniversary of the end of World War II in Asia, the organization's ambassador to Beijing said Friday, amid uneasiness about such displays of armed might in the tense region.
Hans Dietmar Schweisgut said questions remained about whether the event would promote reconciliation or further stir resentment, a reference to China's ongoing feud with Japan over wartime history and competing claims to islands in the East China Sea.
So far, only Russia has confirmed it will send officials and soldiers to take part in the Sept. 3 parade.
"Now I know that this has been represented as something which is also representing a commitment to peace, but I think one has to understand that there has always been an uneasiness (about) these kinds of military parades," Schweisgut told reporters.
Schweisgut emphasized that staying away did not mean the EU did not respect China's role in the war or the suffering inflicted on the Chinese people during the 1937-1945 Japanese occupation.
Observers say some foreign countries face a difficult choice between offending Beijing by not taking part, or by taking part and appearing to cheer China's growing military might. Increased Chinese naval and air capabilities are seen as putting teeth behind its forceful assertions to territorial claims in the East China and South China Seas, stirring concern in Washington, Tokyo and elsewhere.
Sensitivities also surround the venue for the parade — Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing where the Chinese army carried out a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989.
China is promoting its participation in World War II as never before, a 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 US entered the war in 1941. Chiang's forces were later defeated by the Communists in the civil war that resumed after the Allies' victory in 1945, prompting them to flee to the island of Taiwan in 1949.