AP NEWS
Related topics

Bush Peers Into North Korea

February 20, 2002

%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:TOK207-022002; AUDIO:379%)

PANMUNJOM, Korea (AP) _ President Bush situated himself in a sandbag bunker covered with camouflage netting and raised a pair of binoculars to his eyes for a first look at communist North Korea, one branch of his so-called ``axis of evil.″

He saw an isolated stretch of land devoid of trees and, in the distance, a ``peace museum″ with a white dove painted on its roof.

Inside this North Korean tourist attraction were axes that North Korean troops used 25 years ago to chop down the trees and, apparently, to hack two American soldiers to death.

The president shook his head in disgust.

``Did you hear that?″ Bush called out to reporters. ``No wonder I think they’re evil.″

Bush also learned that the trees fell victim to neediness _ the North Koreans used them to build fires for heat.

The president paid a visit Wednesday to the Demilitarized Zone, a barren, 2 1/2-mile-wide stretch that is littered with mines and sectioned by razorwire, to express his desire for communist North Korea to rejoin democratic South Korea as one someday.

Millions of troops from both sides, as well as 37,000 U.S. soldiers, sit poised here, braced for a North Korean incursion. The president wanted to speak here, and illustrate the differences between the high quality of life enjoyed by South Koreans and the starvation and deprivation endured by their neighbors to the North.

Wearing a flight jacket, Bush rolled up to the DMZ in an armored truck that passed through a narrow anti-tank wall packed with explosives. Any vehicle too wide for the passageway would be destined to bump the wall and trigger a blast. Live minefields flanked the narrow road he traveled, and a doubled fence of barbed wire stretched in both directions.

Bush stopped at Camp Ouelette, which sits on a hilltop among a tangle of razorwire. Flags from the United States, United Nations and South Korea fluttered in the breeze.

The president strode up to his sandbag bunker and took in the scene, his hands jammed into his pockets. Then he took up the binoculars to try to spot a village on the North Korean side, and immediately realized he needed to take the lens cap off.

On Aug. 18, 1976, the area Bush saw was the scene of a North Korean assault on a work crew dispatched to cut down a poplar tree that blocked the view from a U.S. guard post. Two Army officers, Capt. Arthur Boniface and 1st Lt. Mark Barrett, were killed.

Today, the U.S. military camp near the DMZ is named for Boniface. Barrett’s name graces a building that houses the Quick Reaction Force.

AP RADIO
Update hourly