SEOUL - US President Barack Obama will visit the tense military border between the two Koreas and address a message to the communist state during a trip to South Korea this month, a report said Monday. Obama will tour the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) during his visit to attend the March 26-27 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, Chosun Ilbo newspaper cited a diplomatic source as saying. “Obama is expected to... comment on North Korea issues and may make a speech regarding the global community’s concerns on the North and the US’s determination to support the South-US alliance,” said the source.
Yonhap news agency also reported Obama’s possible visit to the heavily guarded DMZ, which is surrounded by barbed wire and minefields and bisects the peninsula.
The president may also meet US troops at the border during what would be his first trip to the DMZ, Chosun said. The US has based troops in the South since the 1950-53 war with the North and the force currently numbers 28,500.
The White House has proposed the DMZ visit to showcase the strength of the US-South Korean alliance and to address a message to the North’s regime under its new young leader Kim Jong-Un, the newspaper added.
A spokesman for the South’s presidential office said the DMZ trip was not finalised yet, although Seoul has confirmed Obama will be visiting the country. A US embassy spokesman said he had no knowledge of the matter.
The impoverished but nuclear-armed North late last month agreed a deal to suspend some nuclear and missile activities in return for US food aid.
The surprise announcement by the new leadership raised hopes of a resumption of long-stalled six-party nuclear disarmament talks.
But the North has remained unremittingly hostile to South Korea and to its President Lee Myung-Bak, a close friend of Obama’s.
The border has been visited by several US leaders including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who in 1993 described it as “the scariest place on earth”.
Cross-border tension has been high since Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing one of its warships with the loss of 46 lives in March 2010.
The North angrily denied involvement but went on to shell a border island and kill four South Koreans in November the same year.