Chinese veterans of Korean War urge peace as tensions with US mount
Chinese army veteran Yu Jihua faced the United States on the battlefield in the Korean War and the 87-year-old has no wish to see a repeat as tensions rise again between the nuclear-armed superpowers. The 1950-53 conflict broke out 70 years ago on Thursday and just a few months later would see Chinese and US forces engaged in combat for the first time. The two giants are deeply at odds again today over a range of trade and geopolitical issues, and no one is more sensitive to that than Yu, who still suffers night terrors from the war.
“If a war is started, people all over the world will suffer,” he warns. Yu was a teenager when he was among a “human wave” of Chinese soldiers thrust into battle to prevent ally North Korea collapsing in the face of a militarily superior American-led UN coalition. They turned the tide, sending UN forces retreating southwards, and the brutal fighting ended with no formal peace treaty.
South and North Korea are still technically at war. Up to three million Koreans died, along with 37,000 Americans. Chinese casualty figures are disputed but Western estimates commonly cite 400,000 dead, while Chinese sources put it at about 180,000. “We must all cooperate and then the whole world will be happy,” says Yu.
He and fellow veterans of China’s so-called volunteer army are marking the anniversary with calls for peace. “We hope to use our voice — as Chinese veterans who fought against the West — to urge more people to unite,” says Yu, who lives in suburban Shanghai with his wife Dai Fanli, also a veteran of the conflict.