Presidential visits to DMZ send strong signal to North Korea

Stars and Stripes | 10/20/2017 | + authorName +
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SEOUL, South Korea — Former President Bill Clinton reportedly called the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula the “scariest place on Earth.”

He also gave his Secret Service guards a scare when he walked to the middle of the Bridge of No Return during a visit to the tense border area in 1993, with North Korean soldiers watching from about 50 feet away.

US - Presidents - Buffer - Zone - Miles

Several U.S. presidents have traveled to the 2.5-mile-wide, 150-mile-long buffer zone, which is just about 35 miles north of Seoul. But Army officials said Clinton’s stroll on the bridge made him the only one to get so close to the North.

A visit to the DMZ has recently become almost routine for visiting senior officials, who are usually photographed standing in front of the concrete berm representing the Military Demarcation Line between the blue buildings in the truce village of Panmunjom.

Area - Tourist - Destination - Binoculars - View

The area has even become a popular tourist destination, with coin-operated binoculars providing a view of North Korea from observatories in the South.

But it’s also fraught with danger and symbolism, providing the perfect backdrop for a show of resolve against the North — the common enemy for Washington and Seoul since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Dangers - Soldiers - Film - Visitors - Secretary

Underscoring the dangers, North Korean soldiers frequently approach as close as possible to film high-level visitors, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March.

Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, was supposed to stay inside the so-called Freedom House in the Joint Security Area but instead stepped outside in April, saying he wanted the North Koreans to “see our resolve in my face.”

White - House - President - Donald - Trump

The White House has not said if President Donald Trump will visit the DMZ during his Nov. 7-8 visit to South Korea. It was not on the itinerary outlined in a statement issued Monday that included...
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