North Korea: Donald Trump will not visit demilitarised border zone, says White House

The President's 12-day Asia tour will only include South Korea on the peninsula

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Tuesday 31 October 2017 16:05 GMT
North Korean soldiers look at the South Korean side while US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on 27 October 2017 in Panmunjom, South Korea.
North Korean soldiers look at the South Korean side while US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on 27 October 2017 in Panmunjom, South Korea. ( Jeon Heon-Kyun-Pool/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump will not be visiting the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea on his upcoming Asia tour.

A senior White House official said to NBC that visiting has "become a little bit of a cliché" after Vice President Mike Pence, Defence Secretary James Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also visited the site at the centre of growing tensions with Pyongyang.

Last week Mr Trump had hinted he would go: “Well, I'd rather not say, but you'll be surprised."

Past Presidents have visited the 2.5 mile-wide zone separating the Korean peninsula as a sign of solidarity with Seoul.

However, Mr Trump has had unique interactions with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and some experts feared his presence in the DMZ could further inflame an already-contentious diplomatic relationship.

When the President addressed the United Nations General Assembly in September, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the world not to “sleepwalk our way into nuclear war.”

North Korea writes unprecedented open letter to multiple Western countries

Mr Guterres said extreme language - such as the type Mr Trump has been using like saying he would rain down “fire and fury” on Pyongyang - could lead to “fatal misunderstandings”.

During the speech he referred to Mr Kim as "Rocket Man" and said the young legacy was "on a suicide mission" in trying to further develop his country's nuclear weapons programme.

Mr Trump also said he would “totally destroy” it should North Korea threaten and attack the US territory like Pacific island Guam or an ally.

“The whole world should clearly remember it was the US who first declared war on our country,” North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-ho said from New York.

The North Korean state media agency also issued a statement in response, calling the President a "dotard."

A few weeks ago a North Korean official confirmed Pyongyang's strategy to CNN, adding that "before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that the DPRK has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression."

Mr Trump had recently tweeted that Mr Tillerson was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with Mr Kim through State Department diplomatic backchannels.

He tweeted that "only one thing will work" to deter North Korea's development of its nuclear arsenal, in yet another indication the president thinks military action is the only option left.

Mr Tillerson for his part attempted to reassure the American public on Sunday that "diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops," seeming to indicate the US would only strike as a retaliatory measure.

He also said there is no “better partner than Secretary of Defence who believes in diplomacy” regarding Mr Mattis' belief that military action should be a last resort.

Mr Trump's Asia tour begins on 4 November and will include visits to South Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

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