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Biden

Subject: VP Travel Pool Report #5

Biden at the DMZ

After a spectacular midday helo ride over Seoul, watching the skyscrapers
of the city give way to villages and farmers’ fields, your pool landed at
Camp Bonifas landing zone to await VP Biden for his tour of the
demilitarized zone.

At 2:30, local time, VP Biden, clad in his aviators, brown bomber jacket,
and black baseball cap, emerged from his helo and greeted the base
commander at Camp Bonifas.

The motorcade departed for the quick drive to Observation Post Ouellette,
which sits on a hilltop surrounded by sandbags.

“Welcome to the edge of freedom,” a military police guide said to the VP.

“Good to be back,” he replied.

After some background on the use of Observation Post Ouellette (which,
like Camp Bonifas, is named after soldiers killed by North Korean troops
in an ax murder while on patrol in the zone in 1976), he got a briefing on
the military situation from two Korean soldiers, one translating for the
other.

He was told the Korean People’s Army was not “manifesting any hostilities”
at that moment. And he was handed a pair of green binoculars to survey the
brown landscape across the border.

The post stands 25 meters from the military demarcation line, Biden was
told.

Later, the VP reviewed troops belonging to the US Army and the ROK First
Division, which are on a regular rotation in the DMZ. Ten soldiers in
camouflage stood at attention as Biden, accompanied by granddaughter
Finnegan, entered a small tiled space just under the post, known as the
“break room.”

“How you doing, man?” he said to one soldier. “Thanks for your service.”

Turning to the whole group, he said again, “Thank you for your service.”

Afterward, Biden drove to Freedom House, a large conference center with a
convex interior atrium that serves as a staging area in the DMZ.

As he mounted the stairs to review a US-Korean contingent of military
police, he was reminiscing with the base commander about his previous
visit (couldn’t fully hear).

Shaking hands with each soldier and offering brief greetings, he handed
out VP’s Challenge Coins, dropping one by accident on the marble floor.

Later, Biden walked to an observation deck on the top floor, which
overlooks a similar conference center on the North Korean side. Two Korean
People’s Army troops walked down the front steps and took pictures of us
taking pictures of them.

The base commander recounted the 1976 murders, and Biden replied,
“I remember, I was a United States senator. That was a big deal.”

Pool was ushered back to our bus, and returned to the Camp Bonifas landing
zone, by way of the Bridge of No Return, used by POW exchanges between the
North and South.

Per the VP’s office:

Military participants in the Vice President’s visit to the DMZ:

- General Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander, U.S. Forces Korea (helo-ing with
the VP)

Greeting on arrival to Camp Bonifas :
- Colonel James Minnich, Secretary of the United Nations Command, Military
Armistice Commission
- Lt. Colonel Daniel Edwan, Commander of the UN Command Security Battalion
- Lt. Colonel Yoon Bong Hee, Deputy Commander of the UN Security Batallion

Mark Landler
NY Times

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