U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, center, meets soldiers before her departure from the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. | Leah Millis/AP Photo
Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Demilitarized Zone that divides North and South Korea on Thursday, emphasizing the United States’ commitment to its Asian allies just a day after Kim Jong Un’s regime fired two short range missiles into the sea off its east coast.
“It is clearly a provocation and it is meant, we believe, to destabilize the region, and we’re taking it seriously, and everyone should,” Harris said of the ballistic missile test as she toured a building on Conference Row.
The vice president arrived in the DMZ after concluding a visit to Seoul, the South Korean capital, where she and President Yoon Suk Yeol reaffirmed their shared goal of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and condemned North Korea’s missile launches and provocative nuclear rhetoric.
Harris in the DMZ on Thursday met with U.S. service members at a dining facility, received an operational briefing and visited an observation post where she used binoculars to look out on the North Korean side of the border. She also stood on the South Korean side of the demarcation line that separates the two Koreas.
“It’s so close,” she said as she looked toward the North Korean side. “It’s 50 meters away,” her briefer replied.
In remarks later Thursday, Harris signaled the United States’ commitment to security and stability in the region and reiterated Noon’s alignment on the issue of denuclearization.
“We are reminded that the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea stands ready to address any contingency,” Harris said. “The commitment of the United States to the defense of the Republic of Korea I will report is ironclad.”
She added that the DMZ is a reminder of the two “dramatically different” paths North and South Korea have taken following their 1950-1953 war, with “a thriving democracy” in the south and a “brutal dictatorship, rampant human rights violations and an unlawful weapons program” in the north.
“The United States and the world seek a stable and peaceful Korean peninsula where the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is no longer a threat,” Harris said. “We will continue to work alongside our partners here and everywhere as is necessary to maintain stability and peace in this region.”