(Bloomberg) -- South Korea accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of distorting history in a speech he made on the Korean War, offering rare criticism of its biggest trading partner over rhetoric seen as anti-American.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Monday dismissed as inaccurate claims that China fought against “imperialist invaders” during the 1950-1953 Korean War. “The international debate on this has already been terminated,” Kang said in testimony to parliament, adding the war was started by North Korea, an ally of the Soviet Union and China, when it invaded South Korea.
“The fact is clearly stated and recognized by the UN Security Council,” Kang said. “We are taking necessary communication measures with the Chinese regarding this matter,” Kang added, without elaboration. Opposition lawmakers called on South Korea to summon China’s ambassador in Seoul for talks over Xi’s comments made last week.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s government has tried to reach a delicate balance to keep strong its commercial ties with China while maintaining its “ironclad” military alliance with the U.S. The bruising diplomatic and trade battle between Xi and President Donald Trump has matters even more difficult for Seoul.
China Warns on ‘Red Lines’ in Remembering Its Only War With U.S.
Xi sent a message to the U.S. when he spoke Friday at ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of China’s entry into the war to fight on behalf of North Korea, saying his country isn’t intimidated by American military might. The Korean War remains the only time China has gone to war with the U.S., which was commanding United Nations forces in the 1950-1953 conflict.
“After strenuous battles, the Chinese and DPRK armed forces defeated an opponent that was armed to the teeth, and broke the myth that the U.S. military is invincible,” the Communist Party-backed Global Times quoted Xi as saying, using the abbreviation for the formal name of North Korea.
In October 1950, Chinese troops crossed the border into North Korea at the Yalu River to fight the U.S.-led UN forces. Beijing says just under 200,000 Chinese died in the Korean War, while some U.S. estimates have put that figure at 900,000
The Korean War ended with an armistice agreement that brought an end to the stalemated fighting. Since then, the border between the two Koreas has been one of the most militarized in the world, with about a million troops now positioned near their side of the divide that was redrawn at the end of the conflict.
Xi’s comments come after a poll this month indicated that South Koreans already had strong misgivings about the Chinese leader. The Pew Research global poll said that 83% of South Koreans respondents had no confidence that Xi would do the “right thing in world affairs.” Three-quarters had a negative view of China, up by 12 percentage points from a year ago, it showed.
South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook, also said that he disagrees with Xi. “It is crystal clear that North Korea invaded the South, under the instigation of Stalin and Mao Zedong,” Suh said in parliament Monday about the leaders of the Soviet Union and China at the time of the war.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus weighed in over the weekend, saying in a tweet that China’s participation in the war was tantamount to guaranteeing the “Korean Peninsula’s devastation.”
Sensitivities around the war are running high in China, where earlier this month millions of people took to social media to criticize South Korean K-Pop music group BTS member Kim Nam-joon, known by his stage name RM, for neglecting to talk about China’s role when he mentioned the Korean War at an awards ceremony in New York.
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