- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

President Obama plans to visit the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea on Sunday before an international nuclear summit in Seoul, according to a senior administration official.

The main purpose of the trip to the symbolic area is to allow Mr. Obama time to visit with troops and thank them for their service.

“I think the fundamental message of the trip to the DMZ is underscoring the president’s support for the troops serving there and our ally of South Korea,” said Ben Rhodes, a national security adviser and spokesman for the president.

The South Korean press first reported Mr. Obama’s plans to visit the demilitarized zone last week, but Tuesday was the first time the administration confirmed the travel plans. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan all visited the DMZ during their time in office.

Sunday afternoon the president plans to meet with the prime minister of Turkey to discuss a range of topics, including U.S. support for political and economic reform throughout the Middle East and Africa and the ability to consult on Iran. He with then meet with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Myung-bak, hold a joint press conference, and have dinner with Korean officials.

On Monday morning, Mr. Obama will deliver a speech at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, outlining his goals for the nuclear summit. Afterward, he will meet with Russian President Medvedev — his final meeting with Mr. Medvedev before he leaves power in May — and separately with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The nuclear summit will begin Tuesday.