President Barack Obama heads to South Korea Saturday for a long weekend of diplomacy and opportunities to remind voters that he’s the man in charge — while his Republican presidential rivals mud wrestle in the Louisiana primary.
While in Seoul for a nuclear security summit, Obama will take part in negotiations, interact with world leaders clamoring for a few minutes of his time, and have a number of obligatory photo-ops.
1. He’s the one and only commander-in-chief
The president’s first stop in South Korea will be at the Demilitarized Zone, where, like George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan — who all visited during their first terms — he’ll squint north across the divide between democracy and totalitarianism.
At the location Clinton once called “the scariest place on Earth,” Obama will stress his support for South Korea and offer encouragement to the 28,500 members of the U.S. armed services stationed there. It’s also a chance for Obama to mark the two-year anniversary of the sinking of the South Korean vessel Cheonan by the North. The U.S.-Korean cooperation that followed the incident is a “special example of the solidarity and the cooperation between two treaty allies,” said Danny Russel, a National Security Council senior adviser, on a call for reporters ahead of the trip. “The DMZ is the front line of democracy in the Korean peninsula, and it’s the symbol of the U.S. and the [Republic of Korea’s] resolve, as well as solidarity.”
For Obama, the visit has upsides far beyond the 38th parallel.