China invites Russian troops to march in war parade

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has invited Russian troops to march in a parade in Beijing in September to commemorate the end of World War Two, the Defence Ministry said on Monday, a move likely to further put off Western leaders from attending. China has been coy about which countries it plans to invite to the parade, but says it will likely invite representatives from the Western Allies who fought with China during the war. President Xi Jinping could be left standing on the stage with few top Western officials, however, diplomats told Reuters, due to Western governments concerns over a range of issues, including the expected presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Xi attended a parade in Moscow on Saturday to mark 70 years since the end of the war in Europe. A Defence Ministry statement said Fan Changlong, deputy chairman of China's powerful Central Military Commission, told Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu that China "warmly welcomes Russian military leaders and army formations" to take part in the September events in Beijing. Xi's visit to Russia and appearance at the Moscow commemorations "pushed the China-Russia all-round strategic partnership relationship to a new level", Fan added, according to the statement. Western leaders boycotted the Moscow parade over Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis. The Beijing parade, which will likely see troops marching through Tiananmen Square, will be Xi's first since he took over as Communist Party leader and military chief in late 2012 and as state president in early 2013. Sino-Japan relations have long been poisoned by what China sees as Japan's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of the country before and during the war, and Beijing rarely misses an opportunity to remind its people and the world of this. Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama's top Asia adviser, Evan Medeiros, said that he had questions about whether a large military parade would really send a signal of reconciliation or promote healing, drawing a rebuke from China. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)