By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, May 17 (Yonhap) — U.S. President Joe Biden may visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas during his trip here later this week, as the allies are in consultations on his specific itinerary, informed sources said Tuesday.
Biden is set to arrive in Seoul on Friday, the eve of his first summit with President Yoon Suk-yeol. The DMZ, the heavily fortified inter-Korean border, is among the key sites that Biden could visit during his three-day stay, according to the sources.
The visit to the DMZ, if realized, could serve as a chance for Biden to get a better grasp of the reality of security on the Korean Peninsula and underline solidarity in the Seoul-Washington alliance amid concerns about the possibility of a North Korean nuclear test, observers said.
“Should Biden visit the DMZ, it could help ease concerns that the U.S., preoccupied with the Ukraine war, has been paying less attention to the situation on the peninsula,” Kim Tae-hyung, professor of political science at Soongsil University, said. “His DMZ visit could also be used to accentuate the strength of the bilateral alliance.”
Past U.S. presidents visited the DMZ during their trips to South Korea.
In 1983, then President Ronald Reagan traveled to the zone. A decade later, then President Bill Clinton also visited it. George W. Bush and Barack Obama made their high-profile visits to the zone in 2002 and 2012, respectively.
By far the most dramatic trip to the DMZ by an American president came in June 2019, when then President Donald Trump met with then South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in an historic trilateral encounter. Trump initially attempted to visit the DMZ aboard a helicopter in 2017, but the trip was canceled due to thick fog.
Biden himself toured the DMZ in his then capacity as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in August 2001 and then as the vice president in December 2013.
While in South Korea, Biden could also visit Camp Humphreys, a sprawling U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, to meet American service members and encourage them, observers said.
Following his trip here, Biden is set to fly to Japan to attend a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) summit with the leaders of the other member nations: Australia, Japan and India.
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