Obama to Visit DMZ During Korean Trip

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2012 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma will vis­it the demil­i­ta­rized zone sep­a­rat­ing North and South Korea and meet with U.S. troops as part of his vis­it to the South Kore­an cap­i­tal of Seoul next week.

Oba­ma will arrive in the coun­try March 25 to par­tic­i­pate in the Nuclear Secu­ri­ty Sum­mit host­ed by South Kore­an Pres­i­dent Lee Myung-bak.

The vis­it has a cer­tain sym­bol­ism, said White House offi­cials speak­ing on back­ground. “The pres­i­dent is the com­man­der in chief, and the U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea,” an offi­cial said. “So it is log­i­cal and impor­tant to him to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it with some of them on the front line and to say thank you for their ser­vice.”

An offi­cial not­ed that the vis­it coin­cides with the two-year anniver­sary of North Korea’s sink­ing of the South Kore­an naval ves­sel Cheo­nan, which killed 46 sailors.

“That inci­dent and the coop­er­a­tion between the U.S. and [South Korea] that fol­lowed is a spe­cial exam­ple of the sol­i­dar­i­ty and the coop­er­a­tion between two treaty allies,” the offi­cial said. “The DMZ is the front line of democ­ra­cy in the Kore­an penin­su­la, and it’s the sym­bol of the U.S. and the [South Kore­an] resolve, as well as sol­i­dar­i­ty.”

Dur­ing the talks, Oba­ma will con­tin­ue to push for nations to secure all vul­ner­a­ble nuclear mate­ri­als from ter­ror­ists, offi­cials said. He also will dis­cuss non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, includ­ing the chal­lenges posed by North Korea and Iran. Oba­ma also will empha­size that U.S. efforts on behalf of nuclear secu­ri­ty and safe­ty also are part of a com­mit­ment to peace­ful nuclear ener­gy as an impor­tant part of U.S. ener­gy pol­i­cy and ener­gy around the world, an offi­cial said.

In addi­tion to extend­ed meet­ings with South Kore­an allies, the pres­i­dent will use the occa­sion to hold bilat­er­al meet­ings with the lead­ers of Turkey, Rus­sia, Kaza­khstan and Chi­na, offi­cials said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)