Jet fighters and attack helicopters were among aircraft that flew past in formation as 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 and missiles, as well as tanks.
"There was only one truth：the war battling Japan was mostly conducted by China, thanks to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek," Ma said. "This must not be distorted and tampered. We do not want to boast about the victory, but rather we want to prevent war... Only in this way can we learn the lesson from history."
Japan invaded China in 1937 and 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 give 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, but added, "this would have been better if it were held 20 years ago, or half a century since the victory against Japan."
Soldiers salute from the M60A3 tanks during the 70th Anniversary of the WWII at the Huko military in …
A fleet of 64 jet fighters, attack helicopters and utility aircraft flew low over the Hukou base while two newly-acquired Apache attack helicopters swooped and 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 and tourism links, China has admitted the party contributed in the fight.
Taiwan stands up to China with World War II military parade
By RALPH JENNINGS
TAIPEI, Taiwan（AP）— Taiwan marched out thousands of troops and displayed its most modern military hardware Saturday to spotlight an old but often forgotten claim that its forces led the campaign that routed imperial Japan from China 70 years ago.
The military staged an unusually large two-hour parade of homegrown missiles, Apache attack helicopters and a mountain bike team designed for stealth missions, followed by awards for aged World War II veterans in their attire from the 1940s.
China and Taiwan split during civil war in 1949 and today's China — more militarily and economically powerful than Taiwan — claims that the Chinese Communists had directed the resistance against the Japanese. Mainland officials have argued that the Communists' advice and fighting skills were crucial to the victory.
Taiwan's Nationalist Party ruled all of China when Japan invaded parts of the country from 1931, forming a central stage of the Asian World War II theater. In one attack, the Japanese massacred between 40,000 and 300,000 Chinese in what has become known as the Nanjing Massacre.
Taiwan's military special forces "frogmen" pass in front of thousands of spectators in …
After losing the civil war, the Nationalists rebased in Taiwan in the late 1940s, and the government has governed the awestern Pacific island since then. China's Communists also claim sovereignty over Taiwan and insist that the two sides eventually reunify.
Taiwan's effort to cast the war in its favor comes as it seeks to avoid being eclipsed internationally by China, which has eight times more diplomatic allies.
"It's because the rest of the world is ignoring the Taiwan, so they want their contribution to be well recognized," said Kweibo Huang, associate professor of diplomacy at National Chengchi University in Taipei.
China will offer a three-day public holiday in September to mark the war anniversary, and the official Xinhua news agency says the government will hold its first World War II memorial parade that month.
Beijing had invited Taiwan representatives, but the island government said in April that officials would be banned by law and that any private citizens should attend with caution.