Politics

Elizabeth Warren sees North Korean hostility up close on trip to DMZ

Senator Elizabeth Warren met with South Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha on Thursday as part of an official trip to South Korea, Japan, and China.
YONHAP/EPA/Shutterstock
Senator Elizabeth Warren met with South Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha on Thursday as part of an official trip to South Korea, Japan, and China.

Senator Elizabeth Warren crossed into North Korea for a few moments this week as part of an official trip to South Korea, Japan, and China.

The Massachusetts senator called her trip into the demilitarized zone between South Korea and North Korea an “extraordinary experience” during which North Korea’s hostility toward the other nation was palpable. Warren stood in a building that straddles both countries, where visitors can briefly journey into the rogue state.

“I walked from South Korea into North Korean territory by walking around a table to the other side,” Warren said. “A North Korean soldier immediately appeared at the window and started snapping pictures of me while I was standing in the North Korean part of the room.”

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Warren’s team took a picture of the soldier as well.

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With a summit between the Unites States and North Korean leaders on the horizon, Warren received a classified briefing from General Vincent Brooks, the commander of US troops in South Korea, as well as the South Korean commander, on the risks of the region and the two countries’ joint efforts to protect the area. The senator is a member of the Armed Services Committee.

“They emphasized when I talked to General Brooks and his leadership team the extraordinary losses that would occur if war broke out in this region,” she said. “Death rates would be very high.”

Warren also met with top-level South Korean officials to discuss President Trump’s planned nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The Trump administration wants total denuclearization of the state, and North Korea has apparently halted nuclear testing — though not development — since the meeting was announced.

“The South Koreans are doing everything they can to make this meeting succeed,” Warren said. A date for the summit has not yet been set.

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Earlier this month, Warren said on Fox News Sunday that she believed North Korea should have to take “verifiable” steps toward freezing their nuclear program before they got the “prize” of meeting with the US president.

Her position has changed now that the summit appears more definite, and she now says the verifiable steps must occur after the meeting.

“The president has now announced this meeting and it will occur,” Warren said. “I want it to succeed, but we need a very clear measure of what constitutes success. North Korea must be willing to move forward from that meeting to put in place verifiable changes that reduce the nuclear threat that it poses — that is the measure of success.”

Warren said North Korea’s word is hard to trust, and Trump must be “alert” to that. “They’ve made promises in the past and then broken those promises over and over,” she said

Warren predicted it could take “months, maybe years of painstaking diplomacy to move North Korea to a place that it does not pose a threat to other countries.”

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Meanwhile, the Trump administration has not nominated an ambassador to South Korea, an oversight Warren has criticized.

Warren was in China on Friday, where’s she’s meeting with Chinese officials and business owners and visiting Tiananmen Square. It was the senator’s first trip to South Korea and China.

Update: A statement from Warren about North Korean soldiers holding automatic weapons at the DMZ was removed from an earlier version of this story, after her office said she misspoke in the Globe interview and that the soldiers actually were unarmed.

Liz Goodwin can be reached at elizabeth.goodwin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizcgoodwin