By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will visit the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea and meet with U.S. troops as part of his visit to the South Korean capital of Seoul next week.
Obama will arrive in the country March 25 to participate in the Nuclear Security Summit hosted by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
The visit has a certain symbolism, said White House officials speaking on background. “The president is the commander in chief, and the U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea,” an official said. “So it is logical and important to him to have the opportunity to visit with some of them on the front line and to say thank you for their service.”
An official noted that the visit coincides with the two-year anniversary of North Korea’s sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors.
“That incident and the cooperation between the U.S. and [South Korea] that followed is a special example of the solidarity and the cooperation between two treaty allies,” the official said. “The DMZ is the front line of democracy in the Korean peninsula, and it’s the symbol of the U.S. and the [South Korean] resolve, as well as solidarity.”
During the talks, Obama will continue to push for nations to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials from terrorists, officials said. He also will discuss nonproliferation, including the challenges posed by North Korea and Iran. Obama also will emphasize that U.S. efforts on behalf of nuclear security and safety also are part of a commitment to peaceful nuclear energy as an important part of U.S. energy policy and energy around the world, an official said.
In addition to extended meetings with South Korean allies, the president will use the occasion to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan and China, officials said.