In a show of force and intimidation, a report from the Guardian purports that President Trump will soon be visiting the “no mans land” of the Korean peninsula, where U.S. B-1B bombing drills are taking place.
Donald Trump could soon find himself confronting North Korean soldiers on the world’s most heavily armed border, amid reports that the president is considering a visit to the demilitarised zone (DMZ) during his forthcoming trip to South Korea.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the DMZ, which has separated the two Koreas since the end of their 1950-53 war, was among the candidate sites for Trump’s tour of Asia. He will also visit Japan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Two supersonic B-1B bombers flew over the Korean peninsula on Wednesday night, according to the US military. Two South Korean F-15K fighters, along with Japanese fighters, joined the drill after the bombers took off from Andersen airbase in Guam, the statement said. It was the first time Japan and South Korea had both joined US bombers on a nighttime combined exercise, it added.
The bombers carried out air-to-ground missile drills in waters off the east coast of South Korea, then repeated the drill over waters separating the South and China, the South Korean joint chiefs of staff said.
South Korea’s military described the exercise as a regular drill to bolster the country’s defences and demonstrate the strength of Seoul’s security alliance with Washington in the face of North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear tests.
US Air Force Major Patrick Applegate said: “Flying and training at night with our allies in a safe, effective manner is an important capability shared between the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea, and hones the tactical prowess of each nation’s aviators.
“This is a clear demonstration of our ability to conduct seamless operations with all of our allies anytime, anywhere.”
North Korea, however, views the drills as highly provocative, partly due to bitter memories of US bombing raidsduring the Korean war.
The White House sent a team of working-level officials to South Korea late last month to view possible sites for inclusion in Trump’s itinerary, Yonhap said, citing an unnamed South Korean defence source.
Trump was expected to send a strong message to North Korea, either verbally or “kinetically”, during his first trip to the peninsula as president, the source was quoted as saying. “[He] will likely do something like that and his aides are making the relevant preparations.”
If the visit goes ahead, Trump would probably spend time at the Panmunjom truce village and an observation post inside the DMZ, the source said. The White House has not commented on the reports.
The president would be following in the footsteps of Barack Obama, who peered at North Korea through binoculars during a visit to “freedom’s frontier” in 2012, and Bill Clinton, who described the 2.5-mile wide, 155-mile-long strip of land as the “scariest place on earth” when he visited in 1993.
In April the US vice-president, Mike Pence, used an unannounced trip to the DMZ to declare that the “era of strategic patience with North Korea is over” as a North Korean soldier took his photograph from the other side of the demarcation line.