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China snubs Japan in lead-up to international warship event

Japan's navy has not been invited to join an international flotilla of warships taking part in a ceremonial event in China, an official said Monday, the latest snub in a dispute between Asia's two largest economies.

The international fleet review, being held to mark the 65th anniversary of the Chinese navy, will see warships take part in a sail-past off the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao next month, according to Japanese media reports.

“We have not received an invitation,” a spokesman for Japan's Marine Self-Defense Force (MSDF) told AFP.

Japanese media speculated that Beijing's move was intended to punish Tokyo, with relations mired in acrimony over historical differences and a territorial dispute.

The Nikkei business daily reported that Washington was considering boycotting the event to show its displeasure with China.

“We are prepared to participate in the fleet review and prepared to send our escort ship if we are invited,” the Japanese official said. He added Japan had not been invited to a similar gathering hosted by China five years ago.

The move comes ahead of a visit to China and Japan this week by Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel after he hosts a meeting of Asian defense ministers in Hawaii from Tuesday to Thursday.

While Japan appears to have been left off the guest list for the fleet review, it has been invited to a naval symposium that is being held in Qingdao at the same time, involving top naval officials from more than 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

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