SEOUL – US Secretary of Defense James Mattis will visit the tense border dividing the two Koreas and urge Pyongyang to suspend its missile and nuclear weapons program, South Korea’s defense ministry said on Thursday.
After landing in Seoul on Friday, Mattis and his South Korean counterpart, Song Young-moo, will visit the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone that divides both countries, according to the ministry.
The JSA is the only point where soldiers of the two Koreas, which have technically been at war for more than 65 years, stand face-to-face.
The two defense officials are expected to read a joint statement urging North Korea to stop its weapons tests.
In recent years, US former defense secretaries Ashton Carter, Chuck Hagel and Robert Gates have visited the tense DMZ during their visits to South Korea, as have former US presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
US President Donald Trump was also apparently planning to visit the DMZ during his upcoming trip to South Korea on Nov. 7-8, though this plan has been ruled out, according to the White House.
On Saturday, Song and Mattis will co-chair the 49th Annual Security Consultative Meeting in which the issue of rotational deployment of US strategic assets – including nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers or bombers – in South Korea will be discussed.
The continuous weapons tests by the Kim Jong-un regime, including a nuclear test on Sept. 3, and the Trump administration’s tough rhetoric has escalated tensions in the Korean peninsula to an unprecedented level since the Korean War of 1950-1953.