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China holds high-profile ceremony to mark 77th anniversary of outbreak of war with Japan

President Xi Jinping criticized people who he said "beautify the history of aggression" as China on Monday marked the 77th anniversary of the start of a war with Japan amid rising tensions between Beijing and Tokyo.

This year's unusually high-profile commemoration of the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident, including a nationally televised speech by Xi, comes amid an anti-Japanese propaganda campaign by Beijing.

The two governments are involved in a dispute over ownership of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. China has expressed unease about Japan's reinterpretation of its pacifist constitution to ease restrictions on military activity.

"Unfortunately, nearly 70 years after the victory of the Chinese war of resistance against Japanese aggression and the anti-Fascist war, there is still a minority group of people who ignore historical facts, who ignore the tens of thousands of lives lost in the war, who go against the tide of history and deny and even beautify the history of aggression and harm international mutual trust and create regional tension," Xi said at a ceremony at the Lugou Bridge, called the Marco Polo Bridge in the 1930s, in suburban Beijing.

Xi unveiled a new commemorative sculpture based on a military medal at the Museum of the War of the Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

In 1937, Japanese forces that had been in China's northeast since 1905 provoked a clash with Chinese soldiers by trying to enter the city of Wanping near Beijing. The fighting is regarded as the first battle of the second Sino-Japanese war, which lasted until Japan's defeat by the Allies in 1945.

Last week, China posted documents online that it said were personal accounts of wartime atrocities committed by Japanese in China.