World View: South Korean President Basks in Afterglow of Successful Visit to China

China Holds Military Parade To Commemorate End Of World War II In Asia
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This morning’s key headlines from

  • China’s Xi Jinping assesses the outcome of the WW II victory parade
  • Attendance by President Park Geun-hye a coup for China, S. Korea, taunting N. Korea

China’s Xi Jinping assesses the outcome of the WW II victory parade

South Korea's president Park (L) holds a place of honor at China's victory parade, next to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping (R) on the reviewing stand (AP)
South Korea’s president Park (L) holds a place of honor at China’s victory parade, next to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping (R) on the reviewing stand (AP)

China’s huge World War II victory parade earlier this month is considered a major diplomatic victory for President Xi Jinping. The massive conspicuous display projected a message of militarism, belligerence, and self-confidence, as China prepares for war with the United States. At the same time Xi himself could say “We love peace,” and “China will never seek hegemony or expansion,” taking the same path that Hitler took when he promised “Peace in our time.” ( “4-Sep-15 World View — China displays belligerence, militarism in WW II victory parade”)

The one big humiliation for Xi was that many world leaders refused to come, but sent lower level representatives instead. This is not surprising in view of China’s military belligerence, and also because of China’s human rights record, which was obvious from the fact that the parade took place on the site of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre that killed thousands of college students. But even more humiliating was the fact that no leaders from Indonesia, Malaysia, or almost all other Asian countries accepted the invitation to come. Joongang Daily (Seoul) and VOA

Attendance by President Park Geun-hye a coup for China, S. Korea, taunting N. Korea

The one major Asian leader who attended China’s World War II victory parade was South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Park’s attendance is considered significant for Xi. Park was the only leader of a liberal democracy in attendance, and since Park is considered to be an ally of the United States, her attendance at China’s parade is a small symbolic repudiation of that alliance.

For Park herself it was a significant political coup. She was honored to be placed right next to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and Xi himself on the reviewing stand. At the same time, North Korea’s child dictator Kim Jong-un chose not to even attend the parade, after being informed that he would not be on the reviewing stand at all, but placed to the side. On parade day, North Korea was represented by Choe Ryong-hae, an obscure North Korean official who was forced to sit in the furthest corner in the rear.

Park’s meeting with Xi almost seemed to taunt North Korea. Park and Xi have already met six times, three times in Beijing, while Kim Jong-un has never once met with Xi.

North Korean state media has been extremely critical of Park’s meeting with Xi at the victory parade, especially their talk of reunification, and the suggestion that if North and South Korea were to reunify, then that would be the end of North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program.

Of course, nothing like that is even remotely possible, but North Korean officials were infuriated that Park and Xi even had the discussion. According to North Korea state media:

What need do the Korean people have to pathetically entrust the question of unification and of inter-Korean relations to outside forces? One inconsiderate word or one rude action would be enough to turn the agreement into a useless scrap of paper and to return inter-Korean relations to the point of conflict.

Despite all that, Park’s attendance at the Beijing event was highly controversial in South Korea, and was a puzzle to many, even her supporters.

Relations between China and North Korea have been strained since the death of Kim Jong-il, and the selection of Kim Jong-un as president. According to one Seoul analyst: “From Xi’s point of view, Kim Jong-un is just a young man. Park is the same age as Xi and they have shared experiences. So he’s probably not the right partner to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with Kim Jong-un.” Hankyoreh News (Seoul) and Sydney Morning Herald and Joongang Daily (Seoul)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, China, Xi Jinping, South Korea, Park Geun-hye, North Korea, Kim Jong-un
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