Donald Trump may visit demilitarised zone during first trip to South Korea

People ride bicycles on a road that runs along the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas near the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, on July 17, 2017.
People ride bicycles on a road that runs along the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas near the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, on July 17, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - US President Donald Trump may travel to the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas as part of his first visit to South Korea in November, Yonhap News reported on Tuesday (Oct 10), citing an unidentified military official.

Mr Trump is expected to send a "significant message" to North Korea either verbally or "kinetically" during the trip, Yonhap said, without elaborating on what that may mean.

While Mr Trump would be following his predecessors by visiting the heavily fortified area, any visit to the truce village of Panmunjom and an observation post in the DMZ would take place amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday that only "one thing would work" to stop North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime from further developing a nuclear arsenal aimed at hitting the US mainland.

While Mr Trump did not provide further explanation, it left observers speculating that it might be a military choice. He has also played down hopes for direct talks between the United States and North Korea as touted by his own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

"Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid hasn't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of US negotiators," he said in a pair of tweets.

A visit to the DMZ would fit Mr Trump's appetite for high theatrics, said researcher Bong Youngshik at Yonsei University's Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul.

"The image of him narrowing his eyes to stare across the DMZ. It is tweeting by another means," Dr Bong said. "Mr Trump may also think that if it provokes Pyongyang, all the better."

The White House said in late September that Mr Trump will travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Hawaii from Nov 3-14, but has not yet released a detailed itinerary.