Pool photo by Chung Sung-Jun
President Xi Jinping of China speaking in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday.
SEOUL, South Korea — China’s visiting president, Xi Jinping, reminded South Koreans on Friday that their two countries had fought “shoulder to shoulder” against Japan more than four centuries ago, highlighting what analysts have called the main goal of his visit: unsettling America’s alliances in Northeast Asia.
Japan and South Korea are the United States’ closest allies in Asia, and the Obama administration has been struggling for months to thaw a chill in relations between them as it seeks to counterbalance China’s rise. Mr. Xi’s remarks were viewed by analysts as trying to take advantage of the rift.
Mr. Xi also cited Japan’s military aggression in the 20th century, although he did not mention China’s own invasions of Korea centuries ago, or the much more recent Korean War, during which China fought on the North Korean side.“Whenever there was a crisis, Korea and China always helped each other and overcame the crisis together,” Mr. Xi told a group of students at the prestigious Seoul National University, which educates many students who will join the political elite. “Four centuries ago during the Japanese invasion,” he said, people of both nations had held Japan in “enmity” and had “marched together shoulder to shoulder to the battlefields.”
Mr. Xi spoke through a Korean interpreter.
The fighting the Chinese leader was referring to took place in the 1590s, when China’s Ming dynasty sent soldiers to Korea to help fight Japanese invaders and keep them from reaching China.
“Even young Koreans with the fuzziest sense of history know that the Ming saved Korea from state collapse,” said Lee Sung-yoon, a North Korea expert at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. “By reinforcing this history, Xi is planting the seeds of pro-Chinese sentiment among the next generation of South Korean leaders. In his effort to build a coalition with South Korea to collude against Japan, Xi is fanning the flames of nationalism, accentuating the common history of victimization at the hands of imperial Japan in the 20th century.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday that during his meeting with President Park Geun-hye on Thursday, Mr. Xi had proposed holding joint memorial services with South Korea next year to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II. Ms. Park’s office declined to comment on the proposal.
Mr. Xi’s trip comes at a time when relations between South Korea and Japan are at their chilliest point in years, largely because of historical disputes rooted in Japan’s colonial rule over South Korea during the decades leading up to World War II and its use ofKorean women as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during the war.
Many South Koreans are wary of what they consider Japan’s attempts, under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to whitewash its behavior during the war and the preceding decades. This has complicated matters for Washington, which would like its two key Asian allies to work together more closely as China challenges the United States for dominance in the region and as North Korea remains unpredictable.
Although most South Koreans still regard the country’s close military alliance with the United States as its best guarantor of safety, many also complain that the United States does not take a tough enough stance with Japan over its history. That feeling was exacerbated this week when the United States supported Japan’s decision to reinterpret its Constitution to expand its military role in the region, a move South Korea calls dangerous.
Mr. Xi tapped into such sentiments on Friday, sending the message that South Koreans have a friend in China as they ponder Northeast Asia’s fast-changing economic and geopolitical landscape. South Korean trade with China now exceeds that with the United States and Japan combined.
Pool photo by Chung Sung-Jun
面對韓國國立首爾大學(Seoul National University)的一群學生，習近平表示，「歷史上，每當面對危難時，中韓兩國人民都相濡以沫、患難相助。400多年前，朝鮮半島爆發壬辰倭亂，兩國軍民同仇敵愾、並肩作戰。」這所名牌大學培養眾多未來的政治精英。
「即便不怎麼了解歷史的韓國年輕人也都知道，明朝讓朝鮮免於覆滅，」塔夫斯大學弗萊徹法律與外交學院(Tufts University\'s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy)的朝鮮問題專家李成允(Lee Sung-yoon)表示。「通過強調這一段歷史，習近平在韓國下一代領導人中間播種親華的種子。為了與韓國聯手對抗日本，習近平正在煽動民族主義情緒，強調兩國在20世紀共同遭到日本軍國主義迫害的歷史。」
許多韓國人對日本的意圖心懷戒備。他們認為，安倍晉三(Shinzo Abe)執政下的日本試圖粉飾該國在二戰前的數十年里及戰爭期間的行為。此舉已使美國面臨複雜的態勢。中國正對美國在該地區的強勢地位構成挑戰，且朝鮮局勢一直深不可測，此時美方希望， 它的兩個盟友能更緊密地合作。