A matter of tactPresident Park Geun-hye will attend the Sept. 3 ceremony in Beijing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Imperial Japan. That appears to be a last minute decision that takes into consideration the economic relations between Korea and China as well as China’s pivotal role in inter-Korean ties. President Park’s joining of the event despite the United States and European countries’ determination not to participate carries great significance given the impact on countries that still haven’t decided. We welcome her bold decision to seek our national interests first irrespective of Uncle Sam’s pressure. Her visit will certainly be welcomed by China’s President Xi Jinping.
The Beijing event could serve as a meaningful diplomatic stage for Park. She could have a summit with Xi and, if possible, with Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, although there is still uncertainty over his attendance. She could also meet high-level North Korean officials sent from Pyongyang.
The problem is the debut of China’s most sophisticated weapons, like the enhanced Dongfeng intercontinental ballistic missile, in a military parade to be held the same day. China plans to mobilize as many as 10,000 soldiers for the parade with participation of troops from five allies, including Russia and Mongolia. Beijing must remember that Park’s attendance does not demonstrate a weakened alliance between Seoul and Washington. If China wants to use the parade to show off its increasing military might, that puts Korea in an awkward position. If North Korean troops participate in the parade and our president happens to take their salute, that can never be accepted.
The president’s trip to Beijing faced vehement oppositions until the last moment. Opponents said our president can’t applaud China’s People’s Liberation Army, which fought with North Korea against South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War. A survey shows more than 30 percent of our people are not pleased with her visit.
The ceremony in Beijing is an event to commemorate China’s triumph in a war against Japanese fascism. The celebration must not serve as a venue for consolidating Seoul-Beijing ties in a confrontation with Japan. The traditional trilateral alliance among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo remains unshakable.
Considering all these sensitive aspects, Beijing must be careful not to make Park uncomfortable. If China desires to turn the event into a gathering to promote regional peace, Beijing will have to demonstrate wisdom and tact.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 21. Page 30