China held a high-profile ceremony on Sunday to receive the remains of more than 100 soldiers killed in the Korean war, as Beijing continues to push its nationalist campaign amid deteriorating relations with the United States.
A PLA Air Force Y-20 transport aircraft carrying the remains of 117 service personnel arrived at Shenyang Taoxian International Airport in the capital of northeast China’s Liaoning province about 11.20am after leaving Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea earlier in the day.
A delegation from the People’s Liberation Army and veterans of the war were at the airport to meet the plane, and after being unloaded, the wooden coffins containing the remains – each of which was draped with a national flag – were driven to a local cemetery escorted 45 by police motorcycle outriders.
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According to state broadcaster CGTN, which provided live coverage of the handover ceremonies in Incheon and Shenyang, two Chinese J-11B fighters were sent to escort the Y-20 after it entered Chinese airspace.
Li Jingxian, a deputy director at the Ministry of Veterans Affairs, told CGTN it was the first time China had used a home-grown Y-20 aircraft to repatriate the remains of its soldiers from South Korea, saying that doing so “better reflected the national image”.
The repatriation of remains from South Korea was the seventh since 2014. Beijing says that 360,000 members of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army were either killed or wounded in the war, though unofficial sources say the actual figure is probably much higher.
The Korean war, which ran from 1950-53 and led to the division of the Korean peninsula, is one of the deadliest in history, with 5 million people killed, more than half of them civilians.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the remains of 103 Chinese soldiers were excavated last year from Arrowhead Ridge, a battleground inside the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. Other remains have been found across South Korea.
Sunday’s repatriation ceremony came as Beijing is stepping up its efforts to boost nationalism amid escalating tensions with the US on multiple fronts, including trade, technology, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Beijing has announced a series of high-profile events to mark the 70th anniversary of the PLA entering the “war to resist US aggression and aid Korea” as it is known in China and which is the only time the two countries have come face to face on the battlefield.
Last week, the Memorial Hall of the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea reopened in Dandong, a northeast China city on the border with North Korea, after a hiatus of six years, and a set of commemorative postage stamps will be issued next month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to attend a gathering in Beijing on October 25 to mark the date on which the nation’s soldiers launched their first attack against the US-led United Nations coalition forces.
A film, Jin Gang Chuan, which tells the story of Chinese combat engineers building bridges during the Korean war is set for cinema release the same day.
More from South China Morning Post:
- The Korean war: China’s reminder of strength against the US
- Korean war 70th anniversary sees calls for peace, disarmament
- Korean war lessons: China and US can be friends ‘if China is a rival they cannot beat’
This article China stages solemn ceremony to welcome home remains of 117 soldiers killed in Korean war first appeared on South China Morning Post