Amid escalating tensions between North Korea and the U.S., critics were alarmed Tuesday when a South Korean news outlet reported that President Donald Trump will travel to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the neighboring countries next month.
A defense source reportedly told the Yonhap news agency that the White House has sent officials to the DMZ to assess potential sites for a planned “special activity” in which the president is “expected to send a significant message to North Korea, either verbally or ‘kinetically’,” according to a Reuters report.
“Please don’t tweet from the DMZ. Please don’t tweet from the DMZ. Please don’t tweet from the DMZ.”
—Kelly Magsamen, Center for American Progress
Last week, the president cryptically told the press that the U.S. may currently be in “the calm before the storm.” The statement, combined with president’s refusal to engage in talks with Kim Jong-un and the news of his planned visit to the DMZ, alarmed critics, with many raising concerns that Trump is seeking to provoke North Korea.
In an email comment sent to Bloomberg, Bong Youngshik, a researcher at Yonsei University’s Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the trip would fit the “appetite for high theatrics” often exhibited by the U.S. president.
“The image of him narrowing his eyes to stare across the DMZ. It is tweeting by another means,” Bong said. “Mr. Trump may also think that if it provokes Pyongyang, all the better.”
Journalists and other observers also spoke out on social media.
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Trump has shown no interest in holding peaceful negotiations with Kim Jong-un’s regime, and has publicly pushed back on statements by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who have stressed that they are still pursuing diplomatic talks with North Korea.
Former president Jimmy Carter has also urged diplomacy, writing in the Washington Post last week that the growing tension amounts to “the most serious existing threat to world peace,” and reportedly saying he wants to personally meet with Kim to push for peace talks.
Trump is scheduled to leave Washington on Nov. 3 to visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.