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S. Korean leader to attend China's WWII 'victory' ceremony

By JUNICHI TOYOURA | The Japan News/ Yomiuri | Published: August 20, 2015

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean President Park Geun-hye will travel to Beijing in September to attend China's ceremony "to commemorate the World War II victory," the presidential Blue House announced Thursday.

It remains unclear whether Park will be present at the military parade set for Sept. 3, the same day as the ceremony.

Park will stay in China from Sept. 2 to Sept. 4, according to the announcement. With regard to the president's participation in the military parade, it only said: "It is being deliberated taking various factors into consideration."

According to Ju Chul Ki, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security, Park is scheduled to be present at the ceremony during "the morning of Sept. 3." A meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping is also expected during those hours.

In the afternoon, Park will move to Shanghai to attend on Sept. 4 a reopening ceremony of the building of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. The building was once used as a base for activists who sought independence from Japan's colonial rule.

The Chinese government invited Park to the WWII memorial when Vice Premier Wang Yang visited Seoul in late January, according to a source close to the South Korean government. Around May, the Chinese went a step further by also requesting Park's presence at the military parade. Park was the first foreign leader to receive an official invitation from China, indicating China's strong desire to have her there.

Some in the rank and file of the South Korean government say Park should attend the military parade to underline the president's major diplomatic achievement in building a cordial relationship with China.

On the other hand, some oppose this, as China participated in the Korean War (1950-1953), fighting against South Korea. The Korean daily Dong-A Ilbo presented such a view in its editorial, which said: "The People's Liberation Army [of China] is an enemy force that hindered the unification of South and North. President Park wouldn't be able to give them applause at the parade."

The Japanese and U.S. governments have been conveying their concern to South Korea over Park's participation in China's WWII memorial. The U.S. government has been urging Seoul to be careful not to make it seem as though South Korea was united with China in putting pressure on Japan over historical issues. It seems the United States is wary of a rift developing between itself and its Korean ally, and of the latter leaning further toward China.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at Thursday morning's press conference that he was in no position to comment on Park's visit to Beijing as "it was a matter between China and South Korea."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to see if he can also make a visit to China in September, but while avoiding the day of the ceremony in Beijing. With regard to this, Suga only said, "Nothing has been decided yet."
 

South Korean President Park Geun-hye speaks during her New Year's press conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul Monday, Jan. 12, 2015.
JUNG YEON-JE, POOL/AP

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