Thu, Nov 02, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Trump will not visit DMZ on Asia trip: White House

AP, WASHINGTON

Protesters rally against a planned visit by US President Donald Trump near the US embassy in Seoul yesterday.

Photo: AP

The White House on Tuesday said US President Donald Trump will not visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) during his upcoming trip to Asia — a break from many previous administrations.

There is not enough time in the president’s schedule to accommodate a visit to the heavily fortified border zone that has separated North and South Korea for 64 years, a senior administration official told reporters during a White House background briefing.

Trump will go to Camp Humphreys, a military base about 65km south of Seoul, to highlight the US-South Korean partnership, instead, the official said.

Trump’s trip comes amid his escalating rhetoric and taunts against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the country’s nuclear program.

In a recent speech at the UN, Trump said he would “totally destroy” the nation, if necessary.

He also derided Kim as “Little Rocket Man.”

Every US president but one since Ronald Reagan has visited the DMZ, often wearing bomber-style jackets and flanked by military officers.

Trump’s predecessor, former US president Barack Obama, visited during a 2012 trip to Seoul and told troops stationed at the border that “the contrast between South Korea and North Korea could not be clearer, could not be starker, both in terms of freedom, but also in terms of prosperity.”

Numerous Trump administration officials, including US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Vice President Mike Pence, have all made the trip.

Pence said his trip let North Koreans “see our resolve in my face.”

The White House has played down the notion that the hesitance to visit the DMZ stemmed from security concerns, although experts on the region say a visit could have further inflamed tensions.

Trump is to depart tomorrow for a trip that will take him to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. He is to attend several summits, hold a series of meetings, be feted at banquets and spend time golfing with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Trump is to meet for the first time with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been accused of human rights abuses, including sanctioning the killing of suspected drug dealers.

The White House has said that Trump could raise concerns about the program.

However, the official on Tuesday said that Trump and Duterte shared a warm rapport during a telephone conversation.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to preview the president’s itinerary and aims on the record.

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