Xi Jinping and Park Geun-hye Xie Huanchi/ZumaPress

South Korea’s Middle-Power Diplomacy

Last week, South Korean President Park Geun-hye stood together with Chinese President Xi Jinping to watch the parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Asia. Although Park's decision to attend drew the ire of the US and Japan, it actually reflects a more forward-thinking approach to regional affairs.

BEIJING – Last week, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, despite the opposition of her country’s closest ally, the United States, stood together with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tiananmen Square to watch the military parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of World War II’s end in Asia. The decision provided the most visible image yet of an emerging China-South Korea concert, one that China believes may prevent the region from sliding into cold war.

The region’s other major actors – the US, Japan, and even North Korea – look upon this blossoming friendship with considerable dread. The US worries that China is driving a wedge between its strongest Asian allies, South Korea and Japan, undermining America’s capacity to offset China’s rising military power.

Likewise, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is concerned that his country’s closest neighbor is drifting into China’s orbit. And, indeed, Park has consistently spurned Abe by refusing to hold a bilateral summit with him, in protest over Japan’s alleged historical revisionism, particularly with regard to the Korean “comfort women” who served as sex slaves for the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII.

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