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(2nd LD) N. Korea's Choe Ryong-hae will attend Chinese military parade

All Headlines 16:24 August 25, 2015

(ATTN: UPDATES with quotes, details in first 7 paras; CHANGES headline)

BEIJING, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- A close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will visit China next week to attend a military parade marking the end of World War II, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming said Tuesday.

Choe Ryong-hae, a member of the Politburo Presidium and the secretary of the Central Committee of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, is on the guest list for the military parade on Sept. 3, Zhang said.

The planned visit by Choe to China comes as political ties between Pyongyang and Beijing remain strained over North Korea's defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons and wayward behavior.

Choe visited China as a special envoy of Kim in 2013 and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at that time.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye will also visit Beijing for the events, but it remains undecided whether Park will attend the military parade.

Leaders of most Western countries have shunned the Sept. 3 event amid concerns over China's growing military assertiveness in Asia. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is also absent from the list of foreign leaders who will attend the Sept. 3 commemorations.

Asked about Kim's absence, Zhang replied, "It is up to foreign countries to make a decision on who will attend."

During a joint press conference with Zhang, Qu Rui, deputy director of the Office of the Parade Leading Team of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, said South Korea will send a high-level military delegation to the upcoming military parade.

South Korea is among 31 nations that will send "high-level military delegations to China to attend the parade," Qu said.

North Korea is not among the countries that will send troops or military delegations to the Chinese parade.

About 12,000 Chinese troops and soldiers from 11 nations, including Russia, as well as 200 aircraft will take part in the military parade.

The Sept. 3 event is expected to demonstrate China's fast-growing military capabilities, while highlighting a rivalry between China and Japan.

It also comes as neighboring countries of China keep a wary eye on Beijing's increasingly assertive actions in disputed waters, including the South China Sea, sparking a series of diplomatic rows with neighbors like the Philippines and Vietnam. China is also engaged in a bitter dispute with Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea.


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