Donald Trump May Use North Korea Border Visit to Send Kim Jong Un a Message

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Trump's comments on the NFL have concerned Rush Limbaugh. Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Updated | President Donald Trump is reportedly considering traveling to the demilitarized zone (DMZ), the border area splitting the Korean peninsula, the South Korea news agency Yonhap reported, citing an unidentified defense official.

According to the source, the White House has already dispatched a team to scout a location suitable for Trump's "special activity" during his visit to South Korea in November.

Details of the activity remain unspecified, but Trump is expected to "send a significant message" to North Korea during the visit, either "verbally or kinetically," according to the report.

Trump's aides visited locations within the DMZ, such as the truce village of Panmunjom and the Observation Post, the official told Yonhap. Established at the end of the 1950-53 Korean war, the 2.5-mile-wide strip of land known as the DMZ provides a buffer between the two countries. It is heavily mined, lined with barbed wire and continually guarded by soldiers on both sides.

Other possible sites for Trump's visit include the frontline islands of Yeonpyeong or Baengnyeongdo (North Korea bombed Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 in the most recent direct confrontation), although the official couldn't tell whether the aides visited those locations.

While Trump's fiery rhetoric against Pyongyang adds significance to a visit to the DMZ, it is now common for U.S. presidents to tour the border area. Trump's visit would mark the first presidential visit in five years, following that of President Barack Obama in 2012, President George W. Bush in 2002, President Bill Clinton in 1993. President George Bush Sr. instead visited Camp Casey, the headquarters of the U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division, located a few miles from the DMZ, in 1992.

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Vice-President Mike Pence looks toward the north from an observation post inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, April 17. Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

It wouldn't be the first visit from a member of his administration, either. Vice-President Mike Pence already visited the DMZ during a four-nation Asia tour in April intended to show the administration's commitment to the region.

Trump's own Asia tour scheduled for the first half of November will include five countries: Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, although the White House is yet to release a detailed itinerary.

Coming so close to North Korea will represent an excellent opportunity for Trump to reiterate his fiery rhetoric against Pyongyang. The president has often referred to North Korea in recent tweets, rejecting previous administrations' strategies in dealing with the country and misconstruing facts such as the nature of the funds channeled to Pyongyang in the past two decades.

Trump also publicly criticized his own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, stating that the latter was "wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man" (referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) and telling Tillerson to "save his energies" because "we'll do what has to be done!"

Following those statements, the president has made new remarks in the past week, hinting that a military option against North Korea is very much on his mind, declaring that "only one thing will work" against the regime and calling a dinner with military leaders "the calm before the storm."

U.S. lawmakers have become concerned by Trump's remarks. Republican Senator for Tennessee Bob Corker said Sunday that the president was setting the U.S. "on the path to World War III," while Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy called on Republicans and Democrats to work together to make sure Congress would have to approve any action against North Korea.

"Trump's war drum rhetoric seems like over the top braggadocio but why assume it's just bluster? Other bluster (Muslim ban) led to action," Murphy tweeted Monday.

This article was updated on October 19 to clarify that President George Bush Sr. did not visit the DMZ, but Camp Casey, the headquarters of the U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division, located a few miles from the border.

Donald Trump May Use North Korea Border Visit to Send Kim Jong Un a Message | U.S.
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