Go to contents

THE DONG-A ILBO Logo

Military parade demonstrates China’s rise, and Park’s choice

Military parade demonstrates China’s rise, and Park’s choice

Posted September. 04, 2015 07:10,   

한국어

The world will remember Thursday’s ceremony marking China’s "victory in anti-Japanese war and global anti-fascist war" at Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital as a historic scene in which China as "economic power" demonstrated its military rise to within and outside the country. China disclosed en masse its homegrown high-tech weaponry including the Dongfeng-31A, an inter-continental ballistic missile that is capable of reaching the mainland America by loading a nuclear warhead, and the Dongfeng-21D, a new mid-range ballistic missile dubbed "aircraft carrier killer" that poses threat to the U.S.’ aircraft carrier fleet in the Pacific. More than 60 leaders from 49 countries inspected the military parade, an event that was the largest ever in scale in which 12,000 highly trained and disciplined soldiers moved in perfect order, from the top of the Tiananmen castle turret. President Park Geun-hye also watched the scene, sitting by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the right of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

At the event, China demonstrated to the world its national power and pride as a country that underwent a period of "waiting to strengthen prowess" since its reform and opening in 1978 and emerged as a G2 country, after overcoming a humiliating past in which it hopelessly surrendered to Western imperialism and Japan’s invasion. “China will devote itself to world peace, and will not pursue hegemony,” Chinese president said. “We will reduce the Chinese military by 300,000 soldiers.” He made the remarks in consideration of the international community’s concern about China’s military expansion, but the West interprets his remarks as a declaration to step up efforts to modernize the Chinese military on the contrary.”

China is rising, the U.S. is reformulating leadership, Japan is seeking normalization, Russia is pursuing return to past glory, and North Korea is unstable: This is what Kim Heung-gyu, a professor of Ajou University, had to say to describe international politics in Northeast Asia. From around 2020, when China will likely surpass the U.S. in economic size, to 2030, when military spending by the U.S. and China will become similar, the G2 countries are expected to pursue strategic competition and cooperation. If Japan is transforming into a "country that can engage in war" by securing national interests amidst conflict between the U.S. and China, South Korea may be able to play a new role to lead Northeast Asia towards reconciliation and cooperation.

This is the reason the world is paying attention to President Park, who was inspecting the Chinese military at Tiananmen for the first time in the history of Korea. Wednesday, the eve of China’s War Victory Day, was the 70th anniversary of the day when Japan signed the agreement of surrender in the Pacific War and thus the Second World War ended. President Obama issued on the day a statement suggesting, “The U.S.-Japan ties that opened a new chapter through the end of the Pacific War are a model that demonstrates the power of reconciliation.” On the same day, Russian President Putin, who held their 13th summit with Xi, said, “There is a country in Asia that seeks to reverse the outcome of the Second World War,” in blasting Japan. They have displayed a situation where a new period of honeymoon between China and Russia counters the U.S.-Japan alliance.

President Park apparently decided to visit Beijing based on practical judgment that enhancing friendship with China, with which South Korea is in the relationship of strategic cooperation partners, is as important as the Korea-U.S. alliance. However, her move could cause misunderstanding that the theory of ‘slanting towards China’ in which South Korea, a key U.S. ally, is now leaning toward China is becoming a reality. Considering that China needs to play a constructive role to resolve North Korea’s nuclear development and to achieve peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula, Park needs to proactively explain to South Korea’s allies the justification for her diplomacy aimed at securing national interests amid liberal international order of the world.

The War Victory Day event clearly demonstrated changing North Korea-China relations. At the Tiananmen castle turret, on which late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung inspected China’s military parade by Mao Zedong twice in the past, only Choe Ryong Hae, a secretary of the North Korean Workers’ Party, sat at an edge on the first row this time. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who ended up being absent from the event, may as well have realized fast changing Pyongyang-Beijing ties that have lost lust of the past, as he watched President Park holding summit with President Xi and being treated with high respect. By attending the six-way denuclearization talks, which the leaders of South Korea and China agreed upon, North Korea led by Kim Jong Un should terminate its isolation by making a practical decision to give up its nuclear weapons.

A season of summit talks will continue through the end of the year. A U.S.-China summit and South Korea-U.S. summit will take place at the end of this month and on October 16, respectively. A South Korea-China-Japan summit will take place in Seoul in late October, and President Park and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to hold summit talks on the sidelines of the event. Then, multilateral meetings including the East Asian Summit and a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Council (APEC) will take place in succession thereafter. These events provide wonderful opportunities for Park to consolidate the South Korea-U.S. alliance, and South Korea-U.S.-Japan cooperation, and restore Seoul-Tokyo ties that have remained stalled due to Japan’s distortion of past history. As a sovereign country, South Korea should confidently seek national interests and spearhead diplomacy in Northeast Asia, while emphasizing sharing of core values with allies.

President Park faces a critical time ahead from now in order to robustly open a new horizon in South Korea’s diplomacy, rather than only serving as a guest at President Xi’s extravagant party. The Korean public have expectation that her calculation of gains and losses from attendance at China’s War Victory Day event despite diplomatic burden will prove to be a net surplus.