Posted October. 27, 2017 08:49,
Updated October. 27, 2017 09:34
South Korea’ presidential office Cheong Wa Dae has officially asked U.S. President Donald Trump to visit Camp Humphreys, the newly constructed U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek, during his visit to Seoul in early November. Regarding the reports from foreign news media outlets, such as The Washington Post, that the South Korean government is opposing Trump's visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Cheong Wa Dae said, "We have not asked him not to visit the border area," indicating that it has neither supported nor opposed Trump's visit to the DMZ.
When asked by reporters on Wednesday whether he would visit the DMZ, President Trump said, "I'd rather not say, but you'll be surprised," leaving room for change of plan. Some news media outlets interpreted his words as there is a possibility that Trump will make a surprise visit to the border. Earlier on Monday, however, a White House official placed weight on not visiting the DMZ, saying, "The president is most likely going to be visiting Camp Humphreys, it's going to be very difficult for him to have time to visit both." There are reportedly concerns within the State Department that Trump's visit to the DMZ could cause unwanted results.
The DMZ is a symbolic place visited by all U.S. presidents except for H.W. Bush since Ronald Reagan to show strong "resolution against North Korea" on the basis of South Korea-U.S. alliance. Under the Trump administration, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and CIA Director Mike Pompeo have already visited the DMZ and Secretary of Defense James Mattis will visit the border on Saturday. In the meanwhile, the White House has played down the notion that the decision not to visit the DMZ stemmed from security concerns. Trump’s skipping the DMZ visit this time, when the tension on the Korean Peninsula is at its highest since the Korean War, could send a wrong message regarding the South Korea-U.S. relations.
"We are guests in this state visit and President Moon Jae-in invited us to visit Camp Humphreys," a White House official said, hinting that it is hard for the guest to visit a place where he was not invited. But the host will not stop the guest from visiting a place if the guest insists. Both governments should stop passing the buck.
To be sure, President Trump’s visit to Camp Humphreys will not be all meaningless, given that he will be the first U.S. president to visit the U.S. military base since it has been moved to Pyeongtaek. It will be a worthwhile and necessary thing to show the U.S. president, who has wrong ideas about sharing of defense costs between the two countries, that South Korea has shouldered 94 percent of the expenses to build the modern U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek. Nevertheless, it will be even more meaningful and symbolic for the U.S. commander in chief to stand at the DMZ and show his determination to protect the lives and property of the Korean people.