Fletcher in the News

Chinese Leader Cites Japan as Onetime Mutual Enemy: Professor Lee Comments in NYT

The New York Times

Sung-Yoon Lee is the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

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.

…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.”

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