War veterans gathered Saturday for Taiwan's first military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Japan in World War II, as the island vies with China over the history of the conflict.
Jet fighters & attack helicopters were among aircraft that flew past in formation as President Ma Ying-jeou spoke to the thousands gathered in the northern Hsinchu county on the nationalist Kuomintang government's role in the conflict.
The crowd applauded as jeeps carrying more than 20 veterans, displaying victory signs, paraded alongside trucks carrying ground troops & missiles, as well as tanks.
"There was only one truth: the war battling Japan was mostly conducted by the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan's official title), thanks to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek," Ma said.
"This must not be distorted & tampered. We do not want to boast approximately the victory, yet rather we want to prevent war… Only in this way can we learn the lesson from history."
Japan invaded China in 1937 & the two countries fought a full-scale war until Japan was defeated in 1945, during which 3.2 million Kuomintang soldiers died, according to Taiwanese government figures.
The country's first parade to commemorate the defeat of Japan comes as Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party fears Beijing is trying to donate full credit for the victory to Mao Zedong's communist forces.
But the plans sparked criticism from the radical anti-China opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union, which urged the government to do more to support the military in practical terms rather than organise memorial events.
Veterans, however, expressed their pleasure at having been invited to take part.
Hsu Ming-teh, a former navy officer wearing a dark blue uniform decorated with a belatedly awarded national medal, was among more than 130 veterans at the ceremony.
"I'm really happy," he said, yet added, "this would have been better if it were held 20 years ago, or half a century since the victory against Japan."
A fleet of 64 jet fighters, attack helicopters & utility aircraft flew low over the Hukou base while two newly-acquired Apache attack helicopters swooped & looped.
Japan's de facto ambassador to Taipei was absent from the military event. Sources familiar with the matter said the envoy declined to attend while claiming he had not received the invitation from the Taiwanese government.
Tokyo switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1972.
The Kuomintang government fled the mainland for Taiwan after their troops were crushed by the Chinese communist forces in 1949, at the end of a civil war in China.
Since Ma of the Kuomintang came to power on the island in 2008 with the promise of beefing up trade & tourism links, China has admitted the party contributed in the fight.