While the issue of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions looms large over the entirety of the president’s tour of the region, the visit to Seoul will bring the president within the closest proximity to Pyongyang as he will come this trip.
Over the course of two days in South Korea, a senior administration official said the president will “highlight the enduring strength of the U.S. and Republic of Korea alliance, which is stronger than ever in the face of North Korea's aggression” over the course of the two-day visit to South Korea.
One notable hole in the president’s itinerary: He will not visit the highly fortified demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. A senior administration official downplayed the significance of skipping a visit to the demilitarized zone, saying it has become “a little bit of a cliche” to make the visit.
"The president is not going to visit the DMZ. There is not enough time in the schedule. It would have had to be the DMZ or Camp Humphreys," a senior administration official told reporters in a briefing last Tuesday. "It made more sense in terms of messaging."
The White House said this gives the president a chance to address U.S. and South Korean troops and to highlight South Korea's role in sharing the burden of supporting the alliance. The stop at Camp Humphreys is also significant in that it will be the president’s second visit to a U.S. base on just the third day of his tour of the region, driving home the president’s message of military might and readiness in the region.
The White House has said not to expect the president to moderate his language on North Korea even as he tours the region.
The president has repeatedly derided North Korea’s leader, pejoratively referring to him as “little rocket man” and famously threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury” and total annihilation should the regime seriously threaten the U.S. or a close ally.
Even though White House advisers say there will be no attempt to mince words, the president has so far abstained during the trip from some of his more provocative threats against Pyongyang. But the administration is seeking to deliver a message to Pyonyang through the president's trip that the U.S. is standing guard in the region in lockstep with regional allies and ready to return fire for fire if needed.
“The President's strategy -- and this strategy is in complete alignment with our allies, South Korea and Japan, and, increasingly, the entire world -- is to maximize pressure,” a senior official told reporters in Japan on Sunday. “It is a diplomatic and economic campaign to maximize pressure on North Korea, to show -- really to convince the leadership in North Korea that the one way out for them is to start reducing the threat and to move toward denuclearization.”
ABC News' Katherine Faulders contributed to this report.