Taiwan military tells veterans to avoid China's World War II parade

TAIPEI/BEIJING (REUTERS) - Taiwan's military on Friday urged war veterans to stay away from a victory parade in Beijing next week marking the end of World War Two, saying Nationalist forces led the war, after China announced old soldiers from Taiwan would attend the celebration.

China's official narrative downplays the wartime contribution of Nationalist government troops in battling Japanese occupiers. It focuses instead on Communist forces, who were also fighting an on-off civil war with the Nationalists.

This has upset the government in Taiwan, where the same nationalist party now governs after its ancestors fled there in 1949, having lost the civil war.

In July, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who is from the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) Party, said it was Nationalist forces who won the war and nobody should distort that fact, a message Taiwan's defence ministry repeated in unusually strong language.

"The eight years' resistance against the Japanese was fought by the government of the Republic of China under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek," it said in a statement.

It described the effort as "a steadfast, extraordinary, bloody struggle," and warned against "any form of warping or falsification" of it.

"Retired comrades-in-arms should steadfastly support the view of Taiwan's government, exercise self restraint and refrain from visiting mainland China to attend the Chinese Communist Party's anniversary activities," the ministry added.

Former Taiwan vice-president Lien Chan, also a former chairman of KMT, will attend the parade, but as a private citizen.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office, in a statement released by the official Xinhua news agency, said it would "warmly and sincerely" welcome people from Taiwan to the parade.

People from all walks of life in Taiwan would attend, including old soldiers, it added, but gave no details.

"The war's victory was for all the people, including Taiwan compatriots," it said.

President Ma has signed a series of landmark economic and trade deals with China since assuming office in 2008, but deep suspicions remain.

Lien's trip has sparked criticism in democratic Taiwan, where many remain wary of autocratic China's claims to the island and some want a formal declaration of independence, a move Beijing says it will never countenance.

Major Western leaders are not attending the parade.

Former Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui, whom Beijing detests for his pro-independence views, last week angered China and the KMT party he used to lead, with reported comments in a Japanese magazine.

Taiwan media reports quoted Lee as saying that people from Taiwan did not fight against Japan during the war, as Taiwan at the time formed part of the Japanese empire.