President Obama will kick off his visit to South Korea for the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit with a visit to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, White House officials said on Tuesday.
North Korea recently announced an intention to launch a satellite into space, a move condemned by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as a “threat to regional security.” But North Korean saber-rattling won’t affect international policy with respect to North Korea, officials said.
“Clearly in Korea the president will discuss this; it will be on the agenda,” said Daniel Russel, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, of the North Korean announcement. But given North Korea’s “penchant for backtracking,” Russel said, the announcement likely won't change the course of discussion with respect to containing the East Asian dictatorship's nuclear ambitions.
Iran’s nuclear ambitions will also be on the agenda for discussion at the summit, the follow-up meeting to the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. Leaders will meet to review the nuclear nonproliferation commitments they made in 2010 and set new commitments and goals for the next summit in 2014.
Building an international consensus around nuclear nonproliferation helps put pressure on nations like Iran and North Korea, administration officials said.
“We’ve essentially built a national coalition of countries that are committed to the president’s goal of securing nuclear materials around the world,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. The START treaty signed by the U.S. and Russia signaled the United States’s own commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, according to the administration.
The president will visit no-man's land separating North and South Korea on March 25, in order to visit U.S. service members stationed there and reaffirm the security partnership between the United States and South Korea, officials told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday.
During his three-day visit to South Korea, Obama will also have bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and Chinese President Hu Jintao, and he'll give a speech at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.