Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to Korea’s DMZ and to the Joint Security Area, that is, the Truce Village of Panmunjom.
While there he delivered a fairly stern speech
“The era of strategic patience is over,” Pence said. “President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change. We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”
And, according to Mother Jones:
While resulting headlines conveyed the administration’s tough stance, on social media, the vice president’s stern message was obscured by the fierce facial expressions he displayed during his trip to the DMZ.
Not only was Pence’s trip to the DMZ not scheduled, what he did next definitely was not on the list of things that his security detail wanted to happen:
The decision made headlines, with CNN reporting that Pence broke with his security plan by leaving a building known as the Freedom House to move closer to the border and its Military Demarcation Line. Doing so set U.S. troops and security personnel nearby “scrambling,” the news channel reported.
The JSA is the only place on the ROK-DPRK border where the opposing sides can come into close proximity, though, since the axe murders of Captain Arthur Bonifas and Lieutenant Mark Barrett and Operation Paul Bunyan (August 1976) there has been a strict separation of forces. Before then, Panmunjom was a Wild West where brawls between US/ROK and DPRK forces were not terribly unusual. As a side note, one of candidate Donald Trump’s national security advisers is retired Major General Bert Mizusawa who, as a captain, commanded the US Army’s security company for the JSA. In 1984, he was involved in a firefight inside the JSA that resulted in one of his Korean soldiers (aka KATUSAs) killed and one US soldier wounded but not before the troops led by Mizusawa had killed three, wounded five and captured eight North Korean soldiers.
While Pence was probably not under any increase of danger (before 1976, getting too close to the demarcation line could result in North Koreans trying to pull you over the border), must Western dignitaries confine their Truce Village visit to Freedom House where the North Koreans try to mind f*** them by peering in the windows and taking pictures of them. Pence repaid them in their own coin. A surprise jaunt outside not only caught his people off guard, it caught the North Koreans flatfooted. You can bet they understood the message.