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South Korea's president to attend Chinese celebrations of victory over Japan in World War II

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean President Park Geun-hye will travel to China next month to attend a ceremony marking the anniversary of victory over Japan in World War II, her office said Thursday.

China plans to hold a series of events to commemorate the anniversary, including a lavish military parade featuring aerial displays and its latest weapons.

Park's office said in a statement she will attend a Sept. 3 anniversary ceremony. But her aides said Park remains undecided on attending the military parade set for the same day.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the Chinese celebrations though many Western leaders won't do so.

Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula and occupied parts of China before and during World War II. Many people in South Korea and China still harbor bitter resentment against Japan.

China assisted North Korea and fought against South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, while American-led U.N. troops fought alongside South Korea. China and South Korea now have booming trade ties.

China is North Korea's last major ally and biggest aid benefactor. It's not known if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will attend the Chinese ceremonies. If he attends, it would be his first known travel outside the country since taking power upon the death of his dictator father Kim Jong Il in late 2011.

Earlier this year, there was speculation Kim would attend May's Victory Day celebration in Russia. But Kim eventually didn't go and sent his parliament head to the event that marked the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

China has not specifically said publicly who it has invited and most world leaders have declined to comment.

However, attendance is considered problematic for at least three reasons, offering sufficient cause for foreign leaders to maintain their distance.

Many nations, including those as far away as Great Britain, have recently criticized China's aggressive military moves in the seas on its periphery, including building new, military significant islands in the South China Sea.

There is also concern that the parade is being used to build international support for China in its ongoing rivalry with Japan.

Some also worry about the imagery of foreign leaders attending a military parade adjacent to Tiananmen Square, the heart of a student-led pro-democracy movement in 1989 that was bloodily suppressed by the People's Liberation Army, an incident that China refuses to investigate independently and defends as justified to preserve national unity.

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Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.

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