S Korean president to attend WWII anniversary in China

Park Geun-hye to visit China for World War II anniversary events next month, risking delicate balance in relations with US

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has accepted Beijing’s invitation to visit China next month in order to attend to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the Allied victory over Japan, Seoul confirmed on Thursday.

The invitation has sparked a heated debate and weeks of speculation in the region and in the United States, since Seoul has been trying to strike a delicate diplomatic balance with Beijing and Washington, as well as with Japan.

Seoul said the president will head to China a day before the planned ceremony in Beijing on September 3, but she has not decided whether to attend a military parade in Beijing, aimed at celebrating Japan's surrender.

"Consultations are underway between South Korea and China to work out the details," her presidential secretary Ju Chul-ki told reporters.

The celebrations in China have been criticised by other countries as another example of nationalism since President Xi Jinping came to power.

South Korea wants to improve ties with China while maintaining its alliance with the US, where Park is also due to visit a month later to show she is committed to maintaining strong ties.

Earlier, media reports suggested that Japan pressured the South Korean president not to accept Beijing's invitation and those reports were denied by Washington.  

Together with South Korea, the leaders of Russia, Egypt, Serbia, Mongolia, the Czech Republic and four central Asian nations also announced that they will attend the celebrations in Beijing.

Some analysts claim the attendance of the leaders of "democratic countries" will give credibility to Beijing.

South Korea and China still remember the Japanese invasion as an era of racial and cultural humiliation, and deep resentment persists.

The two countries also have strong economic ties and Seoul hopes Beijing will pressure North Korea to curb its nuclear ambitions, despite the fact that China fought on the side of North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War.

It is not clear that if the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be in Beijing, but he is expected to attend the celebrations to keep up his country's long-term cordial relations with China.

TRTWorld and agencies