CAMP CASEY, South Korea (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula on Wednesday, Gates said during a trip to South Korea.
The 4-km (2.4-mile) wide band straddles the truce line where guns fell silent in July 1953 after the three-year Korean War. Tensions between the Koreas have been high since the March sinking of a South Korean warship.
“Tomorrow Secretary Clinton and I along with our Korean counterparts will visit the DMZ, to highlight how important operations are there to the security of the peninsula as well as the region and demonstrate our steadfast commitment to the ROK,” Gates said during a visit with U.S. troops at this forward base nestled in the Soyo mountains north of Seoul and about 20 miles south of the DMZ.
The visit to the heavily armed border will be a highlight of a symbolic trip by U.S. President Barack Obama’s top national security aides to South Korea amid heightened security tensions following the sinking of the South Korean navy ship.
A team of investigators have blamed the North for firing a torpedo and sinking the corvette Cheonan, killing 46 men. North Korea denies it was involved in any way and has accused the South of conspiring with the United States to fabricate the claim.
Pyongyang has threatened to go to war with the South if it implemented sanctions in response to the ship sinking, but South Korea’s Defense Ministry has said there were no movements to indicate imminent conflict.
Reporting by Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Jack Kim in SEOUL; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner