Beijing, (PTI): In an unprecedented show of its military might, China today displayed long-range “aircraft carrier-killers” and its latest weaponry to mark the 70th anniversary of its victory over Japan in the World War II amid growing standoff with neighbours over territorial disputes.
The 2.3-million strong Chinese military put up a well- coordinated show rolling out its latest armaments ranging from intercontinental ballistic missiles to medium-long range bombers in the parade at the sprawling Tiananmen Square here, which Indian defence officials described as impressive but said they were not surprised as these were already known.
Ballistic missiles, main battlefield tanks, amphibious assault vehicles, drones and other military equipment were part of the parade which was capped when some 200 fighter jets took to the skies and 70,000 doves and balloons were released.
Troops from 17 countries, including Pakistan and Russia, formed part of 1,000 foreign soldiers who took part in the parade which was witnessed by more than 40,000 spectators, including Chinese officials, citizens and foreign guests.
Eighty-four per cent of the 500 pieces of equipment of over 40 types were displayed in public for the first time, officials said.
The cynosure of the parade was Dongfeng-21D missile, the anti-ship ballistic missile described as the “carrier killers” which caused concern among US defence officials as it could blow up aircraft carriers from a distance of upto 1,700 kms.
Though it was in the realm of speculation of US defence circles, this is the first time that it was put on display.
Also China unveiled yet another of its new fighter aircraft – the J-15. The aircraft carrier based fighter jet was developed after China commissioned its first aircraft carrier – the Liaoning – two years ago.
While China relied mostly on Russia for its new advanced defence requirements due to lack of access to US and EU military technology, the new jet with foldable wings was developed as China is busy building two new aircraft carriers.
Flanked by Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and around 30 other world leaders like UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and India’s Minister of State for External Affairs General V K Singh, Chinese President Xi Jinping minced no words in targeting Japan for the WWII excess in which he said over 35 million Chinese suffered casualties.
President Xi, the country’s most powerful leader in decades after the first reformist leader Deng Xiaoping, said China would remain committed to “the path of peaceful development” and unexpectedly announced to cut 300,000 troops from its powerful military by 2017.
The unprecedented display of military might comes at a time when China is in a standoff with its neighbours over South China Sea and East China Sea.
China’s claim of sovereignty over almost all of South China Sea is hotly contested by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
The US, India and other countries have been stating that the disputes should not hinder the freedom of navigation in SCS which is a busy international shipping trade route.
This is the first time China has held a military parade to mark the victory against Japanese aggression. It is held in the background of growing tensions with Japan over the disputed islands in the East China Sea over which China has stepped up its claims in the last three years.
Xi, wearing a simple Mao-style suit, made use of the occasion to rally round national sentiments highlighting the humiliation suffered under Japanese in the eight year war starting from 1937.
In an emotionally chocked voice, Xi said the victory of the Chinese people against Japanese forces is “the first complete victory” won by China in its resistance against foreign aggression in modern times.
“This great triumph crushed the plot of the Japanese militarists to colonise and enslave China and put an end to China’s national humiliation of suffering successive defeats at the hands of foreign aggressors in modern times,” Xi said.
In a nationally televised speech, he said this victory also re-established China as a major country in the world and won the Chinese people respect of all peace-loving people around the world.
“This great triumph opened up bright prospects for the great renewal of the Chinese nation and set our ancient country on a new journey after gaining rebirth,” he said.
The massive victory parade was also a triumph of Xi’s leadership as he displayed complete control of the military against which he launched a massive anti-corruption crackdown leading to investigations into 40 top military Generals.
Commenting on the show put out by China, Indian defence officials said the precision with which the massive military parade was organised was impressive as it involved about 200 aircraft, 10,000 personnel, including 1,000 foreign troops.
President Xi went on mike fitted open vehicle to inspect the troops during which he greeted every contingent.
While Gen Singh attended the ceremony as special envoy, India has not deputed troops to take part in the parade.
The countries which took part in the parade included Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Serbia, Tajikistan and Russia.
Six others, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Fiji, Laos, Vanuatu and Venezuela, marched their delegations for parade. The Parade was held under an unprecedented security blanket.
In a rare appearance, former Presidents Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and ex-Prime Minister Wen Jiabao also shared the stage along with Premier Li Keqiang and other serving top leaders.
After a 70-gun salute thousands of troops marched in formation through the square, with tanks and missiles.
A 2,400-member military band and chorus performed classic songs well known in the war, including the song “Safeguard the Yellow River” from the Yellow River Cantata, composed in 1939 it inspired numerous Chinese in the dark moments.
A total of 50 formations of the People’s Liberation Army, including 11 foot phalanxes, 27 armament phalanxes, 10 echelon formations of aircraft and two veteran teams attended the ceremony.
The weapons demonstrated at the parade included, China’s advanced main battlefield tank, known as 99A, amphibious vehicles, tracked infantry fighting vehicles.
The missiles put for the show included, anti-tank missile, the Red Arrow, China’s third-generation surface-to- air defence missile, HQ-9, conventional missiles, – Dongfeng-15B and Dongfeng-16 missiles, Changjian-10A missile and China’s cruise missile, Dongfeng-26 ballistic missile which can be fitted with the nuclear warhead.
The ICBMS on display included, Dongfeng-31A missile, intercontinental strategic nuclear missile, 5B. Also on display was was the Drone called Yilongdr which the military said can perform both combat and reconnaissance missions.
The aircraft displayed included – KJ-500 airborne early warning aircraft: China’s latest self-developed medium-size all-weather early warning aircraft, long range bomber H-6K, and armed police vehicle for anti-terrorist operations.
The highlight of the parade was display of more than 500 pieces of China’s latest weaponry as well as nearly 200 aircraft of about 20 different models.
Most of the Beijing has been shut down for past few days. The city’s international airport was closed for two hours.