Seoul has announced that South Korean President Park Geun-hye will go to Beijing next month to attend celebrations for the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II.
Chinese analysts said leaders of the two major victims of Japan’s wartime atrocities will stand on the same stage to warn against historical revisionism and boost China-South Korean ties.
Park will attend the event marking the 70th anniversary of victory in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, the presidential office said on Thursday.
Ju Chulki, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs, said Park will make a trip to China for three days from Sept 2 to attend the event on Sept 3.
Park could hold summit talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, though it remains undecided whether Park will attend a military parade in Beijing, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted Ju as saying.
“Consultations are under way between South Korea and China to work out the details” of Park’s trip, Ju said.
The announcement of Park’s visit came at a time of rife speculation that US officials have been pressuring Park not to attend the WWII commemoration in Beijing. US officials have denied such reports by Japanese news media.
Yonhap quoted unnamed South Korea officials as saying that South Korea and the US have consulted enough on Park’s visit. “We fully explained our position and considerations, and the US fully understood,” the official was quoted as saying.
US officials and scholars have long worried that fast-growing ties between China and South Korea will make it harder to achieve a trilateral alliance between the US, Japan and South Korea that Washington hopes to counterbalance a rising China.
The Japanese news media have earlier reported that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may visit China around Sept 3, a report that had been denied by Beijing.
But at a Tuesday talk at the Heritage Foundation, US scholars and former officials, such as Evans Revere, a former State Department official and now with the Brookings Institution, and Sheila Smith, a senior fellow for Japan studies at Council on Foreign Relations, showed more interest in a trilateral meeting in Beijing between Xi, Park and Abe than separate visits by Abe or Park, a view that largely reflects Washington’s concern about Beijing and Seoul getting too close.
After Beijing, Park will go to Shanghai to attend a ceremony on Sept 4 to reopen the office of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, which was established in Shanghai in 1919. The office was set up by Korean independence fighters who fled to China after Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula in 1910.
Zhang Liangui, a Korean studies expert at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, observed that ruling and opposition parties in South Korea “have come to a rare consensus” over Park’s China trip as they believe it will serve national interests.
Zhang said the trip will help balance Seoul’s relationship with Beijing and with Washington, and will “serve as a big push to the China-South Korean relationship”.
“The announcement by South Korea is of great significance, since it will contribute a lot to China’s diplomatic efforts in organizing the events. It’s a very good decision,” Zhang said.
China is South Korea’s largest trade partner, foreign investment destination and source of international students. The two nations concluded the substantial part of their negotiations over the bilateral free trade agreement last year.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that because the FTA remains to be approved by legislation, Park’s visit will be a highly symbolic boost for finalizing the agreement.
Yang Yixi and Xinhua contributed to this story.