S. Korea's Park will attend China WWII event

South Korea's President Park Geun Hye (centre) at a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II in Seoul on Aug 15, 2015.
South Korea's President Park Geun Hye (centre) at a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II in Seoul on Aug 15, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

But she has not said if she will be at parade most world leaders are likely to shun

SEOUL • South Korea said President Park Geun Hye would attend upcoming celebrations in Beijing to mark China's victory over Japan in World War II - an anniversary that most world leaders look set to shun.

But Ms Park's senior secretary for foreign affairs, Mr Ju Chul Ki, told reporters no final decision had been made on whether the President would attend the showpiece event - a huge military parade in the Chinese capital on Sept 3.

"Discussions are under way on that," Mr Ju said, adding that Ms Park was expected to hold a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping during her three-day stay.

China, which has invited more than 50 world leaders, has pushed hard for a decent turnout. But many seem concerned at the prospect of a parade that could marry a showcase for the military prowess of an increasingly assertive China with overt anti-Japanese sentiment. Beijing, however, insists the event has only peaceful aims.

A few leaders have confirmed their attendance, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, who staged a similar military parade in May boycotted by many Western leaders. As a result, Ms Park's presence in Beijing, as the leader of a US-allied, fully democratic Asian nation, will offer the anniversary some added international credibility.

Ties between Seoul and Beijing have warmed considerably in recent years and Ms Park and Mr Xi - who have held two full-fledged summits - are believed to enjoy a good personal rapport. But Ms Park faces a delicate diplomatic balancing act with Beijing and Washington.

China and South Korea have strong trade relations, and Seoul wants Beijing to exercise its leverage over Pyongyang to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions. The South's 60-year military alliance with the US, however, remains the cornerstone of its national defence, and it does not want to become a pawn in the battle between China and the US for influence in Asia.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2015, with the headline 'S. Korea's Park will attend China WWII event'. Print Edition | Subscribe