US President Donald Trump might pay a visit to the heavily guarded demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas in his upcoming tour to Asia, a new report claims, noting that the White House is concerned about possible consequences.
As Trump prepares for a 12-day trip to five Asian countries-- Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines-- next month to bolster international pressure on Pyongyang, the White House is divided over whether he should visit the border area, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing people who had spoken to administration officials.
While American foreign policy veterans who served under former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have advised trump to make the trip, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s administration and the Trump’s own State Department are worried that a trip would increase tensions between the two sides.
“The DMZ functions as a kind of amplifier,” said Daniel Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs under Obama. “The message takes on a more martial and ominous tone when it comes out of a military command post on North Korea’s doorstep.”
Asked if he thought a DMZ visit would provoke Pyongyang, Trump said at a news conference this week that the trip’s details were not finalized, adding, “I didn’t hear in terms of provoking, but we will certainly take a look at that.”
The White House says it has yet to finalize Trump’s schedule for the trip, which will last from November 3 to November 14.
In April, US Vice President Mike Pence visited the DMZ, saying he made the trip so the North Koreans could “see our resolve in my face.”
The Republican president has already ratcheted up tensions over Pyongyang’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs by mocking North Korean leader Kim Jung-un as “Little Rocket Man” and declaring in his debut United Nations General Assembly speech last month that America was ready to “totally destroy” the North if necessary.
Kim responded to the harsh rhetoric by calling Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard” and by threatening to test a nuclear weapon over the Pacific Ocean and strike the US Pacific territory of Guam.
Ever since former President Ronald Reagan toured the DMZ in 1983, George H.W. Bush is the only US president not to visit.