AFP-Jiji SEOUL (AFP-Jiji) — U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned a surprise visit to the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas on Wednesday because of bad weather, leaving him “pretty frustrated,” according to the White House.
South Korean leader Moon Jae In, who had flown earlier before the weather closed in, was left waiting at a guard post on the border, which bristles with electric fences, minefields and anti-tank barriers.
The U.S. chief executive, who the White House had previously said would not go to the symbolic spot, took off from the Yongsan military base in Seoul, but his helicopter then had to turn back due to fog.
Visiting U.S. presidents have regularly gone to the DMZ, where soldiers from North and South Korea face off along a border marked by concrete blocks between blue huts.
Administration officials had said before Trump’s Asia tour that he would not make the trip, saying it was “becoming a little bit of a cliche, frankly” after visits by Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
But Trump said at a state dinner Tuesday evening: “We are going to have an exciting day tomorrow for many reasons that people will find out,” without elaborating.
Reporters accompanying him were summoned earlier than scheduled Wednesday and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told them: “This is where we’re going,” holding up a piece of notepaper on which the letters “DMZ” were scrawled.
Trump’s helicopter Marine One took off from Yongsan, but was forced to turn back, only about five minutes from landing. The group waited nearly an hour for conditions to improve, but the weather worsened instead and the trip was abandoned.
“He’s actually pretty frustrated,” said Sanders. “There wasn’t enough visibility to land. It would have been really dangerous, and our guys pulled back.”