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Home World News Washington Post World News Harris visits DMZ after North Korean missile launches

Harris visits DMZ after North Korean missile launches


CAMP BONIFAS, South Korea — Vice President Harris toured the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on Thursday and became the Biden government’s top official to inspect the demarcation line during a four-day trip to Indo-dominated Asia -Pacific security concerns.

Harris traveled to Asia to attend the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in July. But she also took part in a trio of bilateral talks that highlighted common economic interests and explored the potential dangers posed by North Korea and China.

North Korea underlined the threat and conducted a ballistic missile test a day before Harris arrived in Asia, followed by two more launches before landing in South Korea. The United States and South Korea military are conducting joint exercises off the east coast of the peninsula. The DMZ is the 2.5-mile-wide buffer zone that spans about 160 miles across the peninsula, separating the two Koreas since the 1953 armistice in the Korean War.

This thin ribbon of land separates North and South Korea

Harris’ visit comes as North Korea continues its nuclear and weapons program. With denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang stalled since 2019, the prospect of re-engagement North Korea remains further out of reach than ever.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s new conservative president wants to work more closely with Washington to show a tougher line to the north. The allies leave the door open for dialogue with North Korea, but are in no rush to force a breakthrough.

The strengthening of ties between the United States and South Korea was seen on Thursday during Harris’ trip to the DMZ. South Korea is protected under the US nuclear umbrella, which guarantees that the United States will use its nuclear weapons to defend South Korea if necessary.

“I’m here for a day in South Korea to strengthen the relationship we have with you in the United States,” Harris told U.S. Army soldiers and their families stationed at Camp Bonifas, a United States command post. Nations in the DMZ. She thanked the members of the service for honoring “the commitment we make as a nation based on the principles we hold dear.”

She then visited an observation post to survey the demarcation zone and look into North Korea with binoculars. When a South Korean soldier said she could see North Korean soldiers looking at her, she replied, “I had no doubts that would happen.”

“It’s so close,” she said, referring to the North Korean side of the DMZ.

South Koreans want nuclear weapons en masse to confront China and North Korea, polls show

North Korea’s recent missile launches were the first such tests since June, and the vice president’s visit to the DMZ is likely to spark even more saber clatter from Pyongyang, as previous visits by US dignitaries have done. Still, Harris has gone out of her way to emphasize America’s commitment to its allies in the crucial Indo-Pacific.

In a speech at the USS Howard destroyer on Wednesday, Harris pledged to intensify “unofficial ties” with Taiwan, days after the Biden administration said his administration would use its military forces to defend the island if China invaded “unprecedented attack”.

“China has used its military and economic might to coerce and intimidate its neighbors,” Harris said on the deck of the destroyer, during a visit to the largest US Navy installation outside the United States. “And we’ve witnessed disturbing behavior in the East China Sea and South China Sea, and most recently provocations in the Taiwan Strait.”

A divided Japan sends away Shinzo Abe, its polarizing former leader

Harris’s trip was centered around Abe’s state funeral on Tuesday, and her plans to visit the DMZ had been kept a secret by her team. The visit was unexpectedly revealed during Tuesday’s bilateral meeting with South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-Soo, who praised her upcoming trip to the demilitarized zone and her commitment to security on the Korean peninsula. White House officials rushed to confirm details of her trip afterward. Typically, official plans to visit the DMZ are announced shortly before the trip due to security concerns.

Several former presidents have visited the DMZ since its inception some seven decades ago. In 2019, then-President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the DMZ in a failed attempt to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.

More recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited in August to talk with South Korean leaders about nuclear deterrence. Afterward, North Korea said Pelosi’s visit demonstrated the Biden government’s open hostility toward North Korea, calling it “the worst destroyer of international peace and stability.”

President Biden visited the DMZ as vice president, but he didn’t venture to the border during his May trip to Japan and South Korea. North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, according to the South Korean military, and two other missiles a day after Biden left the region.

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