Seoul, South Korea (CNN) - President Barack Obama used his first visit to the demilitarized zone that splits the Korean peninsula to peer through binoculars into North Korea where flags flew at half-staff to mark the 100-day anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il.
The stop at the border Sunday marked the start of a three-day trip to South Korea where the American president is to attend an international nuclear summit.
Top officials from 54 countries including China and Russia will attend the summit. But its message of international cooperation has been overshadowed by North Korea's announcement last week that it is planning to carry out a rocket-powered satellite launch in April.
Obama's visit to the demilitarized zone was to meet with some of the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.
But the stop also appears to have been intended as a message to North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong Un, that the United States remains committed to South Korea and in its standoff with the country over its development of nuclear power.
"When you think about the transformation that has taken place in South Korea during my lifetime, it is directly attributable to this long line of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen who were willing to create the space and the opportunity for freedom and prosperity," Obama told troops at a base near the DMZ.
"And the contrast between South Korea and North Korea could not be clearer, could not be starker, both in terms of freedom but also in terms of prosperity."
It was Obama's first trip to the demilitarized zone, though he has made two previous trips to South Korea as president. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit to the area in 2010.
Across the border, North Koreans were mourning the death of Kim.
Kim's son, who took over from his father following his death in December, and senior party officials visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang to observe a moment of silence, said North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The palace serves as the burial site for Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea, and his son, Kim, who succeeded him as the country's ruler.
In South Korea, Obama is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with his Seoul counterpart Lee Myung-bak.
President Lee has already said he will use the summit to drum up international support against the actions of his northern neighbor.
South Korea has said it considers the satellite launch an attempt to develop a nuclear-armed missile, while the United States has warned the move would jeopardize a food-aid agreement reached with Pyongyang in early March.
North Korea says it has a right to a peaceful space program and has invited international space experts and journalists to witness the launch.
KCNA cited a spokesman from the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea as denouncing the South for working to turn the summit "into a platform for (an) international smear campaign" against the North.
Seoul's nuclear summit will be the second after Obama hosted the first meeting in Washington in 2010. He initiated the biennial summit after presenting his vision of a nuclear-free world in Prague in April 2009.
The official agenda will deal with nuclear terrorism and how to secure the world's nuclear material.
Although North Korea is not on the agenda, it is likely to be discussed on the sidelines.
Pyongyang announced this month it would carry out a "satellite launch" in mid-April to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country's founder.
Using ballistic missile technology, however, is in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 and against a deal struck with the United States earlier this month that it would not carry out nuclear or missile tests in return for food aid.
Pyongyang has said it will see any critical statement of its nuclear program as "a declaration of war."
Concerns about Iran's nuclear program, again not on the official agenda, will also be discussed in bilateral meetings between leaders.
The date of Obama's visit "is virtually two years to the day" since the sinking of the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, which left 46 Southern sailors dead, said Daniel Russel, director for Japan, South Korea, and North Korea at the U.S. National Security Council.
South Korea says a North Korean torpedo attack was to blame for the ship's sinking. The North has denied the accusation.
CNN's Paula Hancocks, Shruti Pant, Jethro Mullen and Bob Kovach contributed to this report.
There was never a peace agreement signed so the N Koreans still think they're at war with the south. If it weren't for China the north would have collapsed long ago.
Good for you, Sponge Bob. CNN SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF ITSELF. While watching a program on Memorial Day, I was shocked – and then furious. They went from the Pacific Islands war to Vietnam. Needless to say, my mouth dropped open. Korea is my generation's "war." Yeah;, I know it was and continues to be a Police Action. The men and women who lost their lives there did not call it that and should not be "jumped" over.
I ran into a good friend the day before he was to leave for Koreo. Told him we'd all get together when they all came home. I can still see his face and hear his soft voice when he said."I won't come home." He didn't. Where were all of you when thousands of Chinese infantry swarmed over the tops of the hills and our soldiers were slaughtered in the retreat. My heart aches for the families of the lost in the Korea "action." Don't tell me how bad Vietnam was – I already know. One nephew wounded twice, another once. They only talk to each other about it. My paternal ancestor was wounded at Brandywine. So, it's time this 80.year old who remembers World War II, Korea, and Vietnam shuts up.
My great-grandson is 6. He'll be "ripe" for the next one. God help us.
Proud to have this man as our president. Will vote for him again. Lets move forward not backward.
I agree Judy. However, the Rethuglicans are totally against that notion. They have been proving it it over and over again! They want THEIR country back. They want everything to go back to what it used to be: Business as it used to be, drenched in lies, greed, hate, cover-ups, and supremacy! They want Americans mindsets, black and white, to go back to the way they used to be in America; racism, fear, and denial. They want Americans to go back to the times before 1965 at the least. If they could repeal The Emancipation Proclamation, they would!
It was a Republican who issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the first place and republicans who passed the civil rights act in the congress, LBJ couldn't have done it without them. Dems fought all this tooth and nail, it was Dems who formed the KK. It was a Dem (Woodrow Wilson) who re-segregated the armed forces, it was a Dem who put all the Japanese-Americans into detention camps without due process. Martin Luther King was even a registered Republican. If you're going to lie, at least make it sound good.
They don't know it's a lie. They were taught an alternate lib history in school.
You're operating under false assumptions, you assume that liberals:
A) Read History
B) Verify their statements
C) Can use logic and reason
That's 3 strikes
"If you're going to lie, at least make it sound good."
What lie was contained in her post?
Spouting off even factual information, most of which is over 50 years old, and some of which is over 100 years old, does not prove a thing about the current state of the Republican party.
They bear almost no resemblance to even the party when Reagan was president, about 20 years ago. Heck, they don't even agree with the Republicans as of 1994, when Gingrich actually had a position of authority in Congress.
Technically on every point Abraham Lincoln would in this day and age not be a Republican. The GOP of today is more aligned with the Know Nothing Party of the mid 1850's.
Where here is a link to facts which means lefty is again a loser.
Martin Luther King would not allow himself to be identified with any political group. He was not a registered Republican.
So Sponge-aka joey here is the PolitiFact pants on fire lie for the truth-o-meter on that falsehood.
@Sponge-Bob...where did I LIE? Or do 'YOU LIE'?? I said the Republicans want to take us back to the times before 1965. Santorum as much as said it in one of his speeches! Did you overlook that like the media and evrybody else did? I didn't! I said if they could, they'd repeal the Emancipation Proclamation! Is that over -the- top for them? I don't think so...they're good at liking policies and then as soon as anyone else likes it, especially Democrats, all of a sudden they don't like it anymore! The Great Republican who issued the Emancipation Proclamation was assassinated, killed by a Republican Conspiracy who didn't like it, if my memory serves me right on my old history studies. So what is your point? Abraham Lincoln's 'GOP' died with him! This band of biggots, obstructionists, warmongerers and treasonists is NOT the party of Lincoln anymore! He wouldn't anymore be a member of this blame fiasco of clowns, as the 'man in the moon' today!! Lyndon Baines Johnson a democrat, did sign the Civil Rights bill against a whole lot of Republican objection, as well as some Democrats! As a young person, before I knew any better I signed up as a Republican myself! However, the only Republican I ever voted for was Reagan; and some claim that was a mistake. I am now registered as Democrat and have been for years! So your quip about the Late MLK's registration means NOTHING! I'm sure had he not been killed by your 'system' his registration would have been changed! BTW, do you KNOW that he hadn't changed it?? When intelligent people learn better, most times they DO better! LOL!! Or is it that you hadn't learned any better yet?? So what's your point?? About your allegation that Woodrow Wilson re-segregated the arms forces,...well, I'll have to check that out, but if it is true...did he do it alone?? He must have had help from Republicans...just like you claimed LBJ couldn't have signed the Civil Rights bill alone..he had to have help from Republicans!! Be consistant now? I know it's hard for you..LOL!! Lastly,...I'm not sure but if my educated view serves me right, the KKK was formed by White Supremacists from both parties! I'd venture to say the bulk of the founding fathers of that racist organization had to be Republicans, since it was founded in a 'red state', INDIANA! The rest were DIXIECRATS, masquerading as DEMOCRATS! So one more time...What's your point?? You do know when you try to come in deep on me...I always reciprocate! Furthermore... I'm not in the business of lying and making them sound good like you, your RETHUGLICANS and TEABAGGERS are!!! Sorry! That's not my MO!! LOL! BYE!
Obama our fearless leader observes millions of starving North Koreans and lectures Kim Jong Un, “Hey, just make the rich pay their fair share.”
Campaign photo op. Let’s recap Obama’s three years with North Korea:
Unilaterally disarmed US nuclear force classified but estimated eighty percent.
Cancelled F22 fighter, downsized F35 procurement.
Postponed new Virginia class submarine procurement.
Downsizing the Army from 570,000 to 490,000, Marines from 200,000 to 180,000.
Hasn’t passed defense budget in three years.
Increased the national debt five trillion in three years, substantially borrowed from China who now essentially owns our North Korea policy.
North Korea has continued warhead and missile testing with evidence they’ve shared results with Iran.
This continued testing is in disregard for the $1.2 billion in food and energy aid given by the US.
O B A M A = F A I L U R E
If he can see the contrast between N and S and the prosperity of the S, then why is he trying to make us so much like the North?