US Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to the demilitarized zone that divides North and South Korea on Thursday – a day after Pyongyang fired two ballistic missiles into waters off its east coast.
Harris arrived in Asia this week to attend the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, where she also met with South Korean and Australian heads of government.
On Thursday, she met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, with whom she was to discuss the threat posed by North Korea, “the importance of peace” in the Taiwan Strait, economic and technological cooperation and other regional issues, according to the statement. the White House.
During the meeting, Harris called the U.S.-South Korea alliance a “pivot” of regional and global security. She also reaffirmed “the goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and condemned North Korea’s “provocative nuclear rhetoric” and ballistic missile launches, according to a White House statement.
While in Seoul, Harris also met with a group of female industry leaders before heading to the DMZ – often described as one of the most heavily armed frontiers in the world.
The DMZ has long been a destination for US presidents and vice presidents on official visits to South Korea, where they have been photographed peering through binoculars at North Korean-controlled territory.
At the DMZ, Harris will meet with service members and receive a briefing from U.S. commanders.
Harris’ visit comes a day after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles from the Sunan area of Pyongyang, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
The missiles had a flight range of around 360 kilometers (224 miles), an altitude of 30 kilometers (19 miles) and a speed of around Mach 6 – six times the speed of sound, the JCS said.
“The military has heightened its surveillance and vigilance and it maintains a fully prepared posture while cooperating closely with the United States,” he said.
It is North Korea’s 20th missile launch this year, according to CNN’s tally, and follows another launch on September 25 – shortly before Harris arrived in the region.
Speaking on Wednesday aboard the USS Howard at Naval Base Yokosuka in Japan, Harris slammed North Korea’s recent missile launches as “part of its illicit weapons program that threatens regional stability and violates several UN Security Council resolutions”.
At a press conference on Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on whether the launch could have been timed to coincide with Harris’ visit, saying the tests are not ” not unusual” for North Korea.
The United States and South Korea have also been conducting joint naval exercises with the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan since Monday.