- Reuters/Jo Yong-Hak
In November, when President Donald Trump makes his first trip to East Asia since taking office, he could come within feet of armed North Koreans in the heavily guarded border between the two Koreas.
South Korea’s Yonhap News reports that the Trump administration sent an advance team around the country in September to scout possible locations for Trump’s visit.
Yonhap said Trump was expected “to send a significant message to North Korea, either verbally or ‘kinetically'” during his first trip to the country.
“Trump will likely do something like that and his aides are making the relevant preparations,” Yonhap quoted a defense source as saying.
The word “kinetically” can refer to use of military force, but in this case, it may simply mean a show of force versus actual military engagement.
Trump has not shied away from making strong statements on North Korea in the past, but he has not gone through with any military steps that depart from orthodoxy. Only after missiles overflew Japan twice did the Trump administration reply with a flight of B-1B strategic bombers near North Korea’s border, instead of the usual flight path over South Korea.
Yonhap’s source said Trump might venture as far as Panmunjom, the village on the northern end of the Demilitarized Zone, which, despite its name, is one of the more heavily mined and guarded areas on earth.
During her time as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton toured Panmunjom, where armed North Korean guards stand constantly at the ready and where visitors have reported an incredibly tense atmosphere.
The topic of North Korea has dominated bilateral relations between the US and South Korea since Trump took office, but Trump has also floated the idea of revisiting the two nations’ free-trade agreement. That also may be a topic of conversation when Trump meets South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, in November.
Trump is likely to also head to China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan on his trip.