US Defense Secretary Ash Carter is visiting the buffer zone separating North and South Korea to highlight the American commitment to defending its South Korean ally.
Carter was flying by helicopter Sunday from Seoul to what is officially called the Demilitarized Zone, established by international agreement when a ceasefire suspended the Korean War in July 1953. A United Nations coalition led by the United States fought on South Korea's side during the costly 3-year war.
It was Carter's first visit to the DMZ as defense secretary. Later, he was flying back to Seoul for security talks held annually with South Korean defense leaders.
"Being here shows you up close how dangerous this part of the world is," Carter said at the border village of Panmunjom.
The talks were expected to focus on Seoul's progress in developing the military capacity believed necessary to no longer require the Americans to command South Korean forces in the event of a North Korean invasion
"The North Koreans are notoriously unpredictable," Carter told reporters traveling with him.
"We are always prepared for the possibility of provocations," even during Sunday's visit to the DMZ, he said.