US Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the heavily fortified demilitarized zone later this week on a trip to South Korea, the White House said Tuesday.
Harris, who is currently in Tokyo to attend the state funeral of assassinated former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will head to the DMZ on Thursday, a White House official said.
The move is likely to provoke an angry response from North Korea, which denounced US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the “worst destroyer of international peace” when she visited the DMZ in August.
On Monday, Pyongyang warned that South Korea and the United States were at risk of unleashing war after the Allies launched their first combined naval exercise near the peninsula in five years.
Harris’ visit to the DMZ will “underline…the United States’ commitment to stand alongside (South Korea) in the face of all threats from” North Korea, the US official said.
Harris will “reflect on the shared sacrifice” of American and Korean soldiers who died in the Korean War, which ended with a ceasefire that divided the peninsula nearly 70 years ago in 1953, the official said.
Harris arrived in Japan on Monday and met Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ahead of Abe’s funeral on Tuesday, which will be attended by hundreds of foreign dignitaries.
South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo also held talks with Harris in Tokyo on Tuesday and said the DMZ visit would be “very symbolic demonstrations of your strong commitment to security and peace on the Korean peninsula”.
North Korea has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year, including firing a full-range intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time since 2017.
Washington and Seoul officials have repeatedly warned that North Korea is preparing to conduct what would be its seventh nuclear test — an action the United States had warned would provoke a “quick and strong” response.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, has vowed to step up joint military exercises with the United States after years of failed diplomacy with North Korea under his predecessor.
On Monday, the South Korean navy said the joint naval exercise was “ready to demonstrate the South Korea-US alliance’s strong will to respond to North Korean provocations”.
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