Trump considering visit to Korean DMZ next month, source says

By Yonhap News Agency  |  Oct. 10, 2017 at 12:37 PM
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SEOUL, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. President Donald Trump may travel to the inter-Korean border in early November when he visits South Korea, a defense source said Tuesday.

The White House dispatched an advance team of working-level officials in late September to check candidate sites for Trump's "special activity" here, according to the source.

"They looked around Panmunjom and Observation Post Ouellette," the source said on the condition of anonymity.

Trump is expected to send a significant message to North Korea, either verbally or "kinetically," during his first trip to the peninsula as U.S. commander-in-chief.

"Trump will likely do something like that and his aides are making the relevant preparations," added the source.

He is scheduled to visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines starting Nov. 2. No exact itinerary has yet been announced.

The truce village of Panmunjom and the observation post (OP), both located inside the heavily-fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), are among facilities Trump is considering visiting.

"He may instead visit frontline islands such as Yeonpyeong-do or Baengnyeong-do. I am not sure whether the advance team went there, too," said the source.

If Trumps opts for Panmunjom, where pistol-carrying North Korean soldiers stand guard just a stone's throw away, it would raise greater security concerns.

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama visited OP Ouellette, a hilltop border post, and looked through binoculars towards the North.

Two years earlier, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, who served respectively as secretary of state and secretary of defense at the time, toured Panmunjom together.

U.S. officials said Trump will touch on the North Korea issue in his upcoming trip to the region.

"We are in the process of upping the ante and increasing pressure on North Korea to change its behavior," Matthew J. Matthews, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told reporters last week.

He said there will be discussions on ways to send a "clear and unequivocal statement to the DPRK that it needs to bring its behavior into line with its U.N. Security Council obligations." DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

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