(SEOUL, South Korea) — President Obama heads to South Korea this weekend for a whirlwind visit aimed at bolstering alliances with Asian power players and forging an international plan to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.
Obama, who arrives Sunday morning, local time, in Seoul, will make the demilitarized zone (DMZ) along the border between South and North Korea his first stop. He will visit U.S. troops there; Americans have monitored the DMZ on a peacekeeping mission that has lasted half a century.
“I think it reflects the commitment to our South Korean allies, to the security of South Korea,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said of the visit. “It reflects the President’s appreciation for the U.S. troops who are stationed in Korea.”
Obama then starts a flurry of meetings with his international peers, including outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao, and a formal state banquet in his honor, hosted by South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak.
Obama will address students at Hankuk University in Seoul on Monday, when he will outline his goals for global nuclear security and nonproliferation, officials said.
Obama’s key mission, according to the White House, is a nuclear security summit Tuesday, where world leaders will hone their plans to protect nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue regimes.
Obama, who has said that “loose nukes” keep him awake at night, will reportedly urge his international partners to fulfill commitments they made on nuclear security at the first summit two years ago.
Countries will be giving national progress reports on what senior administration officials say is an 80 percent completion rate on previous pledges to impose new safeguards.
On the sidelines of the summit, Obama will meet privately with Pakistani Prime Minister Yusef Raza Gilani in an attempt to reset relations between the two nations after American airstrikes along the Afghan-Pakistan border mistakenly killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers late last year.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Juliet Perry, Tim Hume and Livia Borghese, CNN
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Holly Yan, CNN
Sarah Anderson, Deseret News