Obama to visit Korean border Demilitarised Zone

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The Independent Online

President Barack Obama will visit the Demilitarised Zone separating North and South Korea next week.

The US President's trip on Sunday to the most heavily defended border in the world comes as he tries to foster new nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea. Although US officials regularly go to the DMZ, the presidential visit is likely to be read by the North as a show of strength to its new, untested leader.

"The DMZ is the front line of democracy in the Korean peninsula and a symbol of US unity with military ally South Korea," said Daniel Russel, Asia director for the White House National Security Council. "A visit by the President to see and to thank the US and South Korean service members makes perfect sense."

Mr Obama will visit some of the 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the Korean War six decades ago. It is his first stop on a three-day visit to Seoul for a summit on keeping nuclear weapons materials out of the hands of terrorists. The gathering of more than 50 nations is intended to take stock of progress toward Mr Obama's goal of locking down nuclear material around the world by 2014. Despite some progress by known nuclear nations, the goal of complete security remains distant.

It is overshadowed by North Korea's nuclear brinkmanship and fears Iran could build a nuclear bomb.

North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-un, visited the DMZ for the first time as leader this month. He announced that the North will launch a satellite into orbit next month. The US, Japan, Britain and others warned it would violate a UN ban on nuclear and missile activity because the technology could be used for long-range missiles.