UPDATE : 2018.1.23 TUE 09:49
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Trump likely to visit major U.S. base in S. Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump is likely to visit American troops at a newly expanded U.S. military base in South Korea next month, a senior White House official said Monday.

The visit would take place during Trump's state visit to Seoul on Nov. 7-8 amid high tensions over North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

"The president is most likely going to be visiting Camp Humphreys," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "Camp Humphreys is a relatively new base, a major base on the peninsula that is also a great example of burden sharing."

Some 28,000 American troops are stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Located in Pyeongtaek, a port city some 70 kilometers south of Seoul, Camp Humphreys has served as the new headquarters of the U.S. 8th Army, the backbone of the U.S. Forces Korea, since July.

On whether Trump plans to visit the demilitarized zone on the inter-Korean border, the official said it hasn't been decided yet. But he added that "security is not a concern," contrary to what recent news reports have suggested.

This AP file photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump. (Yonhap)

Trump's visit to South Korea will be "unique" and "very special," with an address to the National Assembly, according to the official. Trump only plans to stay for one night in Seoul during his Nov. 3-14 visit to the region.

He is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, visit with American and South Korean service members, and pay his respects to the fallen at the National Cemetery.

In his address to the National Assembly, he will celebrate the "enduring alliance and friendship" and call on the international community to maximize pressure on North Korea, the official said. It will be one of two "really significant" speeches the president makes during the tour, and the only one addressed to a legislature.

He also said Trump will "highlight the enduring strength of the U.S.-ROK alliance, which is stronger than ever in the face of North Korean aggression." ROK is the acronym of South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.

Defending Trump's tough rhetoric with North Korea, the official said the U.S. was "cheated" in past negotiations with Pyongyang. He also said the world was "tricked" and the United Nations was "humiliated" as North Korea reneged on its side of the denuclearization-for-aid agreements.

"Look at the substance of the issue and the dilemma that the world faces," he said. "If we fail to confront and reverse the threat from North Korea, we're going to be living in a much darker era."

Despite the Trump administration's efforts to signal that its "door was open for dialogue," the official noted, Pyongyang fired a series of ballistic missiles, including two with the potential range to strike the mainland U.S., conducted its sixth nuclear test and detained an American citizen until shortly before his death.

Trump will ask China to do more to rein in the North when he goes there from South Korea, according to the official. Washington has also tried to talk Beijing out of retaliating against Seoul for its hosting of a U.S. missile defense system.

"This administration has been quite forthright in explaining to the Chinese how unjust those policies are," he said. "This is a purely defensive system that does not damage China's strategic interest in the least and is really designed to confront what is an offensive, outrageous threat emanating from the North."

The official also addressed the dispute between South Korea and the U.S. over their free trade agreement, saying he is optimistic the two sides will find a way to move forward in a mutually beneficial manner.

Hwi Won  edt@koreapost.com

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