Standing just steps from the heavily armed border with North Korea, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday that Pyongyang is closely watching the international response to Syria's use of chemical weapons against its own people.
And, with North Korean soldiers eyeing his every move, Hagel told reporters traveling with him that the U.S. has no plans to reduce its military presence in South Korea, despite the ongoing budget crisis.
Hagel's visit is timed to the 60th anniversary of the signing of the mutual defense treaty between the U.S. and South Korea, and to reinforce America's commitment to the security of the peninsula and the Asia-Pacific region.
"There is no margin for error up here," Hagel said after a stop in one of the three small blue conference houses that sit on the border of North and South Korea. "This is probably the only place in the world that we have always a risk of confrontation. Where the two sides are looking clearly and directly at each other all the time."
Inside the house, Hagel stepped briefly onto the North Korean side. And when he moved back outside to speak to a crowd of reporters, North Korean soldiers stepped up to the border just alongside the building and watched from about 40 feet away.