President Park Geun-hye arrived in Shanghai on Thursday after attending a massive military parade in Beijing, the centerpiece of the 70th anniversary of China's victory over Japan in World War II.
Park, wearing a yellow jacket and sunglasses, stood alongside her Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping; Russian President Vladimir Putin; and other dignitaries on the balcony of the Gate of Heavenly Peace as China began the celebrations at Tiananmen Square in central Beijing.
Tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers goose-stepped through the square while about 200 aircraft flew overhead.
Among some of the military hardware displayed were inter-continental ballistic missiles, ZTZ-96A main battle tanks, HJ-12 anti-tank missiles and H-6K mid-range strategic bombers, according to Chinese state-run media.
"The parade is all about signaling -- both to international and domestic audiences of China's strength and invulnerability, although state media has been publishing some fairly Orwellian op-eds on how 'peace loving peoples' will welcome this display of military equipment," said James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of IHS Jane's Defense Weekly.
Western leaders skipped the military parade, widely seen as a show of force of an assertive China. The United States sent its ambassador to China to the ceremony, rather than sending a senior official from Washington.
During the ceremony, Xi spoke of China's commitment to peaceful development as he announced that China will slash the number of its troops by 300,000.
"We Chinese love peace. No matter how much stronger it may become, China will never seek hegemony or expansion. It will never inflict its past suffering on any other nation," Xi said, according to China's state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Hardy also said Chinese power projection via this or other military equipment is not playing too well with its neighbors.
Park encountered Xi's two predecessors -- Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao -- and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at a lounge during the parade, said presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook.
Park later watched the parade from her seat, except for a roughly 30-minute break at the lounge.
Choe Ryong-hae, a key confidant to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, also attended the ceremony, though Park did not encounter Choe, Min said.
Park's decision to attend the ceremony has drawn some criticism that South Korea may be tilting toward China, but it underscores Seoul's latest attempt to secure Beijing's cooperation in persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
China is believed to have significant leverage over North Korea, which has long been dependent on Chinese diplomatic support and economic aid.
At Wednesday's summit talks, Park and Xi warned North Korea against conducting missile and nuclear tests, in the latest strong message against Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has never visited China since taking power in late 2011, following the sudden death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in a symbolic move that reveals the strained relations between the two traditional allies.
Shanghai is the second and last stop on Park's three-day trip to China.
On Friday, Park plans to attend a ceremony to reopen a historic building that was used by Korea's provisional government during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
Many Koreans moved to China to continue the anti-Japanese resistance movement during the colonial rule.
The provisional government was formed on April 13, 1919 as the Korean government-in-exile, a month after Korea launched an independence movement against Japan. The Korean Peninsula was later divided into the capitalistic South and communist North after its independence from Japan in 1945.
Park also plans to meet with representatives of the Korean community and attend a South Korea-China business forum in the Chinese commercial capital. (Yonhap)