Visiting leaders will all attend parade: Beijing

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Visiting leaders will all attend parade: Beijing

President Park Geun-hye is expected to attend a controversial military parade at next month’s Victory Day celebrations in Beijing to mark the end of World War II, a senior Chinese official suggested Tuesday.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming said Tuesday all foreign leaders who will visit Beijing next month for the Victory Day celebration will attend a massive military parade scheduled for Sept. 3.

Last week, the Blue House announced that Park would make a three-day visit to China from Sept. 2, to attend a series of celebratory events, but she had yet to decide whether to attend the parade.

Western leaders were expected to skip it due to China’s rising military profile.

During a press conference, Zhang said representatives of 49 countries will attend the events, including 30 heads of state or government leaders including President Park and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to Zhang, 10 heads of international organizations including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and 10 other high-profile officials from various regional bodies will attend.

Asked by a reporter if any foreign leader intends to skip the military parade, Zhang said all foreign leaders will attend all events including the parade.

North Korea’s young ruler, Kim Jong-un, will not be there. The communist regime will be represented by Choe Ryong-hae, considered to be the third highest-ranking official in the country.

It will be the first military parade hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012. It will involve about 12,000 Chinese troops and proudly display the country’s weapons systems including fighter jets and missiles.

China invited militaries of other countries to participate in the parade in Tiananmen Square.

“Eleven countries including Russia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Egypt and Cuba will each send about 75 troops to participate in the military parade,” Zhang said.

China reportedly asked for a dispatch of 75 troops because of the formation of the march. A foreign military unit will be composed of five rows of 15 soldiers.

Twenty countries including South Korea will send military delegations or observer groups. North Korea, however, will send none.

Beijing created a diplomatic headache for many countries due to the political sensitivity of attending a military parade.

The Blue House maintained the position Tuesday that Park’s detailed schedule for her China trip has yet to be fully decided.

“We will make public the details at an appropriate time,” the presidential office said.

A source in Beijing told the JoongAng Ilbo that an advance team from Seoul’s Foreign Ministry and the Blue House is consulting with Chinese authorities on the specifics of Park’s trip including protocols to receive her.

The team reportedly made specific demands to China to arrange Park’s attendance for the parade and China accommodated them, the source said.

Although China invited Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo said Monday that he will not go.

In a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Abe wants to stay in Japan in order to oversee the passage of security legislation.

The upper house of the Japanese parliament is deliberating a series of controversial security bills to expand Japan’s military role including the possibility of fighting overseas for the first time since its defeat in World War II.

Abe’s decision was not a surprise since China’s event has been promoted as a commemoration of its resistance against Japanese aggression.

Leaders of Japan’s western allies including U.S. President Barack Obama are also expected to shun the event.

During the press briefing, Suga also denied that Abe plans to go to China a few days before or after the ceremony, but made clear that Japan wants another summit with China.

“We will keep trying to create an opportunity for the top leaders to frankly talk to each other,” Suga said.

BY CHOI HYUNG-KYU, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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