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Obama visits Korean demilitarised zone

South Korea,Diplomacy,Defence/Security, Sun, 25 Mar 2012 IANS

Seoul, March 25 (IANS) Amid rising tensions over North Korea's planned rocket launch, US President Barack Obama Sunday undertook his first visit to the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that divides North and South Korea.


The demilitarised zone is a heavily fortified 2.5-mile-wide stretch of land that has separated North and South Korea since 1953.


The heavily fortified border area is a symbol of the lingering military tension on the Korean peninsula, where some 28,500 US troops are based as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, Xinhua reported.


The visit was aimed at highlighting Washington's security commitment to its ally (South Korea) as tension resurfaces.


Obama, who arrived in Seoul earlier in the day to attend the two-day Nuclear Security Summit which opens Monday, made a brief stop at the demilitarised zone before holding a series of bilateral talks with world leaders including his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak.


"You guys are at freedom's frontier," Obama told some 50 American troops gathered at the demilitarised zone, according to a press release. "The contrast between South Korea and North Korea could not be clearer, could not be starker."


North Korea earlier this month announced its plan to launch a rocket-mounted satellite in mid-April in apparent defiance of a UN ban.


While North Korea claimed the launch will abide by international norms and hit back at its critics for continuing "hostile policy" towards Pyongyang, South Korea and the US regarded the move as a test of a long-range missile.


The Seoul summit is the follow-up to the inaugural Washington summit in 2010 where Obama set the goal of securing the world's nuclear materials by 2014.


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