Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed on Friday that both China and South Korea have suffered hardship under Japanese militarism in a speech delivered in Seoul, amid growing concerns about Tokyo’s move to push the limits of its pacifist constitution.
“In the first half of the 20th century, Japanese militarists barbarously invaded China and Korea, swallowing up Korea and occupying half of the Chinese mainland,” Xi said in his speech delivered to college students at Seoul National University.
“When the war between China and Japan reached its peak, the Chinese and Koreans helped each other, risking their lives,” he said.
Xi’s mentioning of Japan’s militarist past came on the second day of his state visit to South Korea. Xi’s remarks on Japan’s past militarism was seen as China raising the need to make a joint response with South Korea against Japan’s recent nationalistic move and its backpedaling of its 1993 apology on its wartime atrocities including its sexual enslavement of Korean women.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced earlier this week that the country would end a ban on collective self-defense by reinterpreting its constitution, which had prevented Tokyo from waging war and possessing war-related materials.
The Chinese leader arrived on Thursday, with a large group of political and business leaders, as well as Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan. Xi’s trip to Seoul was widely seen as a snub to its traditional ally Pyongyang, as he chose the South Korean capital before North Korea.
Xi also called for a “denuclearized Korean Peninsula” and that the goal should be made through “dialogue and negotiation,” reiterating his statement delivered during a joint news conference held with South Korean President Park Geun-hye right after their summit.
During the summit, the two leaders agreed they will strongly oppose North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and work together to improve conditions in order to resume the long-stalled talks on ending Pyongyang’s related programs. The two sides also agreed to strengthen cooperation on business and culture and turning their strategic partnership into a more comprehensive one.
Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry said on Friday that Xi has offered to “jointly hold memorial events” next year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule as well as the end of the World War II.
Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters that the two leaders discussed “issues with regard to Japan’s perception of history.” But he said he cannot confirm whether the two exchanged views on that issue.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)