TAIPEI (Reuters) - Two grandchildren of World War Two-era U.S. presidents said the Chinese Nationalists’ role in defeating Japan was as significant as the Communists in a rare joint appearance in Taiwan, as China launches its own high-profile parade marking the war’s end.
Descendants of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman - as well as of post-war president Dwight Eisenhower - said the Japanese were expelled by all Chinese, despite China’s official narrative downplaying the wartime contribution of Nationalist government troops in battling the occupiers more than 70 years ago.
China focuses instead on Communist forces, who were also fighting an on-off civil war with the Nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek. The Nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war.
“If (the Communists) are taking credit solely for resistance to the Japanese during the war, they’re forgetting that Taiwan is over here,” Truman grandson Clifton Truman Daniel said on Tuesday.
In July, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who is from the Nationalist Party, said it was Nationalist forces who won the war and nobody should distort that fact. Taiwan’s defense ministry has called on veterans not to attend Beijing’s parade.
China will on Wednesday present to the press a group of foreign guests it has invited to the parade, including a former member of the Flying Tigers, a group of U.S. airmen who piloted fighters during the war.
None of the presidential heirs in Taipei said they had received invitations from China to attend its celebrations, though they said if they had they still would have come to Taiwan.
“My grandparents had a relationship with your President Chiang and Madame Chiang as well, a very, very close relationship,” said Roosevelt grandson David B. Roosevelt. “I would have honored that.”
China views democratic Taiwan as a renegade province to take by force if necessary.
Most senior Western leaders are skipping China’s parade, along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, concerned about the message a massive show of force will send a region already on edge by China’s growing military assertiveness.
Taiwan is being represented indirectly by former vice president Lien Chan, also a former chairman of the Nationalist Party, as a private citizen. President Ma had called on him not to go.
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Lien on Tuesday that both the Communists and Nationalists played an important role in defeating the Japanese, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.
Taiwan itself was a Japanese colony during the war, and many Taiwanese fought with Japan’s forces.
Editing and additional reporting by Ben Blanchard