President Donald Trump wasn’t officially scheduled to visit the North-South Korean border this week. Then Trump hinted that he might make a surprise trip to the infamous Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that has separated North and South Korea since 1953. But it wasn’t meant to be, as the trip to the DMZ was scrapped due to fog and bad weather conditions.
The President’s helicopter made two attempts to land after flying out of Seoul, the South Korean capital, but the trip was aborted when the helicopter couldn’t land near the DMZ due to fog and bad weather, it was reported.
CNN correspondent Will Ripley tweeted: “White House says President Trump is disappointed and pretty frustrated he had to turn back because of weather on the attempted surprise visit to the DMZ. The [White House] pool says he was to join South Korean President Moon, who had already landed nearby.”
Reuters detailed how the drama unfolded:
Helicopters carrying Trump and an entourage of staff, media, and security forces were turned back just minutes from the DMZ.
“There wasn’t enough visibility to land,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “It would have been really dangerous, and our guys pulled back.”
Press traveling with the president were told to wait 10 to 20 minutes for another attempt. But after waiting for nearly an hour the president departed in a motorcade around 9 a.m, according to a White House pool report.
Sanders had summoned reporters early on Wednesday morning.
“This is where we’re going,” Sanders said, holding up a piece of notepaper that had the letters “DMZ” scrawled on it.
She said that was the way she had been instructed to tell the press and that all activity regarding the trip to the Demilitarized Zone were under embargo, and could not be reported on, until Trump landed back in Seoul after the visit.
“He’s actually pretty frustrated,” Sanders said of Trump.
It was reported that South Korean President Moon Jae-in had been waiting for Trump at the DMZ.
It would have been the first time the U.S. and South Korean presidents visited the DMZ together.
Mattis stood with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo in a show of unity against the country led by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who is on a mission to fully develop a nuclear missile arsenal.
Mattis reiterated that the United States is depending on diplomacy and sanctions to deter North Korea from its nuclear ambitions.
President Trump is currently on a 12-day tour of Asia, most recently making an appearance in South Korea. He is now expected to head to China, and will then visit Vietnam and the Philippines.
Panmunjom is a truce village located inside the DMZ where North Korea soldiers are armed and within throwing distance – literally.
Former President Barack Obama visited the hilltop border post OP in 2012 and observed North Korea with binoculars, and in 2010, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates had toured Panmunjom.
Tensions run high in the 2.5-mile-wide DMZ, where U.S. troops are sandwiched between North and South Korea. The rift between the countries has been ongoing since 1950 – which makes it the longest war on paper since World War II.
Accounts from those who have been to the DMZ report that it feels like a “Cold War theme park.”
There is a fake village on the North Korean side of the zone, where propaganda is blasted through loudspeakers.
On the South Korean side, tourists cram onto an observation deck to see it all.
While that feeling might be very surreal, the reality is that there are 10,000 artillery pieces that observes can’t see on the North Korean side, aimed at Seoul, the South Korean capital that is only 30 miles away from the DMZ. War planners estimate that 500,000 people could be killed in a second Korean War.
At Osan Air Base, very close to Seoul, Korean airmen and Americans monitor all activity north of the DMZ.
Guard Post 4, a citadel near the DMZ, is where U.S. troops are stationed, under General Vincent Brooks, the current commander of the United States Forces Korea, United Nations Command and ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command.
Brooks has made it overwhelmingly clear that the U.S. is ready at a second’s notice to aggressively and overwhelmingly respond to any serious North Korean action.
North Korea has said it has at least 10 nuclear weapons, and that its intercontinental missiles could carry a ballistic missile, according to leader Kim Jong Un; the country has already tested multiple missiles this year.