President Trump will not visit the heavily fortified demilitarized zone on the North Korean and South Korean border amid heightened tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear program during his upcoming Asia trip, a senior administration official told reporters during a background briefing on Tuesday morning.
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The official cited time constraints and said visiting the demilitarized zone is “becoming a bit of a cliche,” as Defense Secretary James Mattis, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary Rex Tillerson have all visited recently.
“The president is not going to visit the DMZ. There is not enough time in the schedule. It would have had to be the DMZ or Camp Humphreys,” the official told reporters in a briefing on Tuesday. “It made more sense in terms of messaging.
Last week, the president declined to say whether he will visit the demilitarized zone during his upcoming Asia trip, telling reporters “you’ll be surprised.”
The White House said this gives the president a chance to address U.S. and South Korean troops and to highlight South Korea’s role in sharing the burden of supporting the alliance.
The official further justified the decision, adding that a minority of American presidents have visited the region since the end of the Korean War.
The news comes amid the heightened war of words between President Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, as the president prepares to call on the international community to maximize pressure on North Korea.
Earlier this month, Trump tweeted that he told Tillerson that any negotiations with Kim Jong Un, whom Trump called “Little Rocket Man,” are a waste of time.
The comments were an apparent response to news that the U.S. has open channels of communication with North Korea. The president also tweeted Sunday that Tillerson should save his energy because the U.S. will “do what has to be done.”
A senior administration official on Tuesday defended the president’s tweets, telling reporters that he was not tweeting diplomacy with North Korea was a “waste of time,” but rather referring to “direct talks” with North Korea.