Obama to have broader diplomatic issues in mind during DMZ trek
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- Staring at North Korea through binoculars at the heavily fortified land border with South Korea, U.S. President Barack Obama will attempt to send a message not only to Pyongyang but also to Teheran, another recalcitrant regime in the eyes of western officials, a U.S. newspaper said Saturday.
Obama's trip to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which former President Bill Clinton called "the scariest place on Earth" during his own visit, is apparently aimed at boosting his image as the "sole commander-in-chief" of the U.S., beset with a host of thorny diplomatic issues, including North Korea, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, according to Politico.
Obama arrived in Seoul on Sunday morning (local time) to attend the second Nuclear Security Summit, a follow-on to the inaugural Washington meeting in 2010.
His first stop during a three-day stay will be a tour to the DMZ.
White House officials described the DMZ as the "front line of democracy" on the peninsula and a symbol of the alliance with Seoul.
They also said the timing is significant.
"March 25th is virtually two years to the day since the sinking of the ROK (South Korea) naval vessel, the Cheonan," National Security Council Asia Director Daniel Russel told reporters earlier this week.
The Cheonan was sunk in the Yellow Sea by a North Korean torpedo attack on March 26, 2010, killing 46 sailors, the South announced after a multinational probe.
"And that incident and the cooperation between the U.S. and the ROK that followed is a special example of the solidarity and the cooperation between two treaty allies," he added.
Visiting the DMZ, Obama would also set his sights beyond the peninsula on other troubling issues -- recent setbacks in Afghanistan, pressure to intervene in Syria, and Iran's nuclear ambitions, Politico reported.
Obama has faced fierce criticism from Republican presidential candidates over the handling of those matters.
He apparently hopes to remind American voters that he is the one and only commander-in-chief.
Obama will "attempt to tell the story of a president carefully monitoring and ready to move on any situation -- even one 4,000 miles away in Teheran," it said.
Meanwhile, Obama plans to use Seoul as a venue for summit diplomacy on efforts to resolve the Iranian and Syrian issues.
Following a bilateral summit with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Sunday, Obama is scheduled to hold a series of one-on-one meetings with Chinese Premier Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.