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Trump hints at ‘surprise’ visit to DMZBy Choi He-suk
Published : Oct. 26, 2017 - 16:31
Speculation is rising that US President Donald Trump may visit the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas during his visit to the South next month.
On Wednesday, Trump hinted that he would visit the DMZ, saying “Well, I’d rather not say but you’ll be surprised” when asked whether the tense inter-Korean border would be in his itinerary.
Since US President Ronald Ragan, all but one US president visiting South Korea went to the DMZ. The only exception to date was President George H.W. Bush.
Local media had speculated that Trump would visit a US military base here and exclude a trip to the DMZ from his itinerary during his two-day state visit to South Korea that begins on Nov. 7.
Earlier, Trump himself had hinted that the DMZ could be passed over.
In a press conference on Oct. 16, Trump said that his office would “certainly take a look at” the question of whether his visiting the DMZ would provoke North Korea.
Such assessments were further bolstered by a senior White House official who was quoted as saying that South Korean President Moon Jae-in had invited Trump to visit Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.
South Korea’s presidential office on Thursday confirmed that it had suggested to the White House that the camp be included in Trump’s itinerary.
“(Cheong Wa Dae) suggested that it would be beneficial for President Trump to see for himself how the Pyeongtaek base is being used,” a Cheong Wa Dae official told the media.
“However, a request to refrain from visiting the DMZ was not made. Whether President Trump will visit Pyeongtaek or somewhere else will only be known when the White House makes the final announcement.”
According to reports, Seoul sees a visit by Trump to the base as an opportunity to send a strong message about the alliance and to ease Trump’s views on South Korea’s contribution to US military expenses incurred here.
Since before taking office, Trump has taken issue with South Korea’s contribution -- about 950.7 billion won ($845.6 million) this year -- to US Forces Korea’s expenses.
Camp Humphreys is the US military’s latest installation in South Korea. It is said to be one of the most advanced among the US’ overseas military facilities. So far, more than 16 trillion won has been injected into the installation, more than half of which has been shouldered by South Korea.
Aside from the possible DMZ visit, Trump will hold his third bilateral summit with Moon on Nov. 7, and address the National Assembly on Nov. 8. He will then depart for Beijing.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com)
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