China says military powers are not directed at Japan

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The swaggering economic and military giant that is China, celebrated the 60th anniversary of Japan's World War Two defeat this weekend, while denying that it had any expansionist military ambitions today.

Beijing's military is expanding at break-neck speed and official comments about China's neighbours are increasingly laced with xenophobic threats. But China's president Hu Jintao used the occasion to emphasise that China's economic and military power was not directed against its old enemy Japan, or the US.

"China did not seek hegemony in the past, and it will never seek hegemony in the future," Mr Hu said at a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. "By solemnly commemorating that victory, we will keep history in mind, never forget the past, cherish peace and create a better future."

Mr Hu's first visit as president to the US was due to take place this week but Mr Bush cancelled a Wednesday summit meeting amid the deepening crisis over Hurricane Katrina. Mr Hu and President Bush will meet instead during the annual session of the United Nations general assembly, in New York next week.

China and Japan are competing for influence in Asia and they frequently clash over their separate interpretations of history. In the absence of a free media, China's Communist party has kept the country focused on the abuses committed by Japan before and during World War Two. Violent anti-Japanese protests swept across China in April, triggered by Japan's attempt to win a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Mr Hu said he did not intend to "give rise to hatred" for Japan. But he also criticised "some elements" of Japanese society for failing to recognise Japan's wartime aggression and the atrocities it inflicted on China during its 1931-1945 occupation.