Fighter jets flew low over Beijing on Sunday 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 planned Sept. 3 parade will showcase the People’s Liberation Army rapidly growing capabilities at a time when Beijing is asserting territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
The city center was closed to the public but photos on social media showed Chinese missile carriers rolling through Tiananmen Square and troops carrying the flags of Mongolia and Cuba. 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.
Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mexico also plan to participate, according to state media. The government has said more than 10 other nations are taking part but has not identified the rest.
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 toward territorial disputes. That has made taking part in the September parade 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 Cental Asia, 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 has yet to decide whether to attend the military parade.
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.