Published March 12, 2012
SEOUL, South Korea – US President Barack Obama is likely to visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Korea later this month, the Yonhap news agency reported Monday, citing a diplomatic source in Seoul.
Obama will visit South Korea for the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, which starts March 26, and is expected to tour the DMZ before leaving on March 27, the source said. It would be Obama's first visit to the zone.
Nearly 30,000 US troops support the South Korean Army's force of some 650,000 troops, on the country's border with North Korea.
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 Eun, according to a report in the Chosun Ibo newspaper cited by AFP.
A spokesman for the South's presidential office said the trip was not finalized yet, while a US embassy spokesman said he had no knowledge of the matter.
Obama's expected trip to the DMZ comes just weeks after the US and North Korea both announced that the North had "agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities at [the North's major nuclear facility] Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities."
In addition, the North Korean government also agreed to the return of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities and confirm the disablement of the five-megawatt reactor and associated facilities.
The agreement was apparently made in exchange for US nutritional aid for the nation, which has suffered persistent food shortages.