July 3, 2015 / 9:14 AM / 2 years ago

European Union leaders unlikely to attend China's World War Two parade, envoy says

BEIJING (Reuters) - Top leaders from the European Union are unlikely to attend Beijing’s military parade in September to commemorate the end of World War Two, the bloc’s ambassador to China said on Friday, adding he was worried about the message the event would send.

China has been coy about which countries it plans to invite to the parade, but says it is likely to 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 have told Reuters, due to Western governments’ concerns on several issues, such as the expected presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian troops.

Xi attended a parade in Moscow in May to mark 70 years since the end of the war in Europe. Western leaders boycotted the Moscow parade over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis.

“I cannot speak for others, but I think it’s unlikely that top leaders from European Union institutions are going to attend,” the EU ambassador to China, Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, told reporters.

A number of European leaders had been invited, but so far no decisions, or only a few, had been made, he added.

“Let me just say that one concern we share is that if this event is taking place, including with a military parade, the concern is, is this really sending a message of reconciliation?” Schweisgut said.

“Is this going to be an event which is going to be the basis for a more peaceful region and world, or is it going to stir resentments which could go in the other direction?”

The Beijing parade 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 affected 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 reprise this view.

In April, U.S. President Barack Obama’s top Asia adviser, Evan Medeiros, said he questioned whether a large military parade would really send a signal of reconciliation or promote healing, drawing a rebuke from China.

While he respected the role China played in the war and understood its suffering, the parade would unsettle people at home, Schweisgut said.

“I think in Europe, many people just feel a bit uncomfortable with large-scale military parades demonstrating military power.”

Reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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