WH downplays DMZ, says Trump has no plans to visit

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo taken on March 24, 2012 shows former US President Barack Obama during a visit to the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) near Panmunjom on the border between North and South Korea. (Photo by AFP)

Unlike past US presidents, Donald Trump has no plans to visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North Korea and South Korea during his trip to Asia next month.

The White House said on Monday that instead, Trump is scheduled to speak with US troops at Camp Humphreys, south of Seoul.

The White House downplayed the importance of stopping at the DMZ, which the past three presidents have visited during trips to South Korea saying, "we don't think it sends any message either way.”

Past presidents, and even some members of Trump's own administration, have used visits to the DMZ to demonstrate resolve against North Korea. US Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama had all visited the DMZ during their tenures.

This file photo taken on July 11, 1993 shows former US President Bill Clinton shaking hands with an unidentified South Korean soldier at the Bridge of No Return separating North and South Korea. (Photo by AFP)

When US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited in March, North Korean soldiers on the other side got close enough to film him as he toured the area. US Vice President Mike Pence also visited the border during a visit to Asia in April.

National security experts have cautioned that Trump's belligerent language about North Korea and its leader has increased tensions in the already volatile region to unprecedented levels, thus rendering a visit to the sensitive DMZ as excessively provocative.

The standoff in the Southeast Asia region over North Korea escalated in July when Pyongyang test-fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Experts say the entire US mainland is within the range of the missiles, which North Korea says could be equipped with nuclear warheads.

Trump is slated to depart for a nearly two-week trip through Asia early next month, with additional stops in China, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. It will be his first official visit to Asia as president, and it will mark his longest continuous trip during his time in office.

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