TAIPEI: Taiwan has rejected a claim by the Chinese communist party that it played the major role in defending China from Japan`s invasion during the Second World War, it was reported Sunday.
Taipei says the Kuomintang was the ruling party of China during the eight-year Sino-Japan War, which ended in 1945, and led the fight against the Japanese.
The dispute over who defended the mainland was re-opened on Friday after the People`s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese communist party, published an an editorial saying that the party had taken the lead during the war.
But the claim was swiftly rebutted by Taiwan`s President Ma Ying-jeou, who insisted that his Kuomintang party led China "to the final triumph over Japan".
"This is history that must not be distorted," Ma was quoted by presidential office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang as saying.
The spat highlights lingering political differences between Taipei and its former bitter rival Beijing, despite a softening of relations over the last two years, local media said.
Taiwan`s defence ministry also issued a statement Saturday to counter the Chinese claims.
More than 3.2 million Kuomintang servicemen were either killed or wounded during around 1,000 battles with Japanese invaders, the ministry figures showed.
Chiang Kai-shek`s Kuomintang government fled the mainland in 1949 after its troops were defeated by the communist forces, led by Mao Zedong, at the end of the civil war.
Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since 2008 after Ma came to power, pledging to boost trade links and allow more Chinese tourists to visit the island.
But Beijing still considers Taiwan part of China`s territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, although the island has ruled itself since 1949.
BDST: 1530 HRS, September 5, 2010