China to cut troop levels by 300,000
CHINESE President Xi Jinping announced yesterday he would cut troop levels by 300,000 as the country held its biggest display of military might in a parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II.
Mr Xi, speaking on a rostrum overlooking Beijing's Tiananmen Square before the parade began, said China would cut by 13 per cent one of the world's biggest militaries, currently 2.3-million strong, Reuters reported.
The Defence Ministry said the cuts would be mostly complete by the end of 2017.
"(After the cut,) Chinese armed forces will be slimmer but more capable, and their composition more scientific," Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told the state-owned Xinhua news agency following Mr Xi's speech.
This will be the fourth time China is reducing its military numbers since the 1980s.
In his speech, Mr Xi described the eight-year war with Japan from 1937 to 1945 as "a decisive battle between justice and evil, between light and darkness", and said the victory had "re-established China as a major country in the world", the Agence France-Presse reported.
But he also said: "Prejudice and discrimination, hatred and war can only cause disaster and pain.
"China will always uphold the path of peaceful development."
Mr Xi then descended to Beijing's main thoroughfare and inspected rows of troops, riding past them in a black limousine.
After that, more than 12,000 soldiers, mostly Chinese but with contingents from Russia and elsewhere, marched down Changan Avenue, led by World War II veterans carried in vehicles.
They were followed by ballistic missiles, tanks and armoured vehicles, many never seen in public before, such as the Dongfeng-21D missile, which is reportedly capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with one hit.
Mr Xi was joined by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sat by his side, and leaders of several other nations with close ties to China, including Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
Most Western leaders rebuffed invitations to attend, diplomats said, unhappy about the guest list and wary of the message China would send with the show of strength.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not attend the parade.
Beijing repeatedly said the parade was not aimed at today's Japan, but to remember the past and to remind the world of China's huge sacrifices during the conflict.
But China has regularly criticised the Abe government over what it sees as Tokyo's insufficient contrition over wartime atrocities.
Japan said yesterday that it was "disappointed" there were no signs of rapprochement in Mr Xi's speech.
It also reiterated its objection to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's attendance at the parade, saying that it was a violation of the UN's neutral position.
Beijing was locked down to ensure nothing went wrong at the parade, with much of the downtown off-limits, a three-day holiday declared and civilians kept well away.