TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not visit China next week, the government said Monday, as Beijing prepares for a huge military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Tokyo’s defeat in World War II.
Abe had decided to put off a visit “given the situation in parliament,” said top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga. The prime minister faces a parliamentary backlash over his efforts to expand the role of the country’s military.
But local media said Japan’s government was concerned about the anti-Japanese nature of the planned massive parade through central Beijing and other events to commemorate Tokyo’s World War II surrender.
Abe had previously expressed a desire to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in early September, but the talks had not been confirmed.
“We hope to work to further develop the relationship between the two nations by creating opportunities for the leaders to have talks at international conferences and other events,” Suga told reporters.
The announcement confirms that Abe will stay away from the September 3 commemorations in China to mark the end of what Beijing calls the “Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War.”
Japan occupied parts of China from the 1930s until the end of World War II and Beijing says millions died as imperial Japanese troops stormed across Asia.
Xi attended a similar parade in Moscow in May commemorating victory over Nazi Germany. Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to return the gesture by traveling to the Beijing event.
Putin is by far the most prominent world leader committed to attend, with leaders of most Western and Western-allied countries, including the United States, staying away amid concerns over Beijing’s increasingly assertive actions in the region.
South Korean officials said last week that President Park Geun-Hye would attend the commemorations, but no final decision had been made on whether she will attend the showpiece parade itself.
In Tokyo, Abe and his allies are facing a backlash over deeply unpopular security bills that could pave the way for Japanese troops to see combat — in defense of allies — for the first time since the war.
Efforts by the nationalist Abe to expand the role of pacifist Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have angered China, while simmering territorial disputes between Tokyo and Beijing have also hurt relations.
Abe’s recent war anniversary speech upset neighbors China and South Korea, which branded it a non-apology for Tokyo’s wartime record.
During the closely watched speech, Abe expressed regret but also said future generations need not apologize for Japan’s wartime conduct.