Kamala Harris prepares for a visit to the DMZ following a missile launch in North Korea

As Pyongyang began its unprecedented weapons test assault with the launch of two ballistic missiles, US Vice President Kamala Harris landed in Seoul on a tour aimed to reaffirm America’s commitment to South Korea.

Harris met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in his office in Seoul shortly after landing from Japan on Thursday morning, hailing the nations’ partnership as a “pivot of security and prosperity.”

Yoon, a curator who started in May, invited her to a “new turning point” in bonding.

Later today, Harris will go to the heavily guarded demilitarised zone (DMZ), which has been in place since the 1950-53 Korean War concluded in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

“Visiting the DMZ is practically on the ‘must do list’ of every vice president or president visiting this part of the world,” Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, who is stationed in Paju, Korea, said. South of the border.

US Vice President Joe Biden visited the region in 2013, and US President Donald Trump went in 2019 and made news by shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and entering the country.

McBride described those times as “exciting,” and a lot has changed since then.

“This shows how severely the relationship has deteriorated,” he said. “When Harris visits the DMZ, she is likely to be on a much more normal tour, visiting various service members, [and] gazing north.”

North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles while Harris was in Japan on Wednesday, and another before departing Washington, DC, on Sunday. According to several observers, it is planning to launch its first nuclear bomb in five years.

Harris and Yoon were scheduled to address the North Korean threat and US vows to support South Korea. They were also anticipated to talk about the growth of commercial and technical cooperation, as well as the recent repair of tense ties between Seoul and Tokyo.

Harris denounced North Korea’s “illicit weapons programme” while in Tokyo for the official burial of deceased former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Fighter jets and helicopters on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan as it approaches the South Korean port of Busan
The USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, is in South Korea for the first time in five years, taking part in military exercises. [Yonhap via Reuters]

In Washington, DC, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the new missile launches would not deter Harris from going to the DMZ and that she intended to express the US’s “unwavering commitment.” Working together for regional security.

“As you know, North Korea is known to perform this sort of testing,” Jean-Pierre explained, adding that it was “not unusual.”

Yoon campaigned for election by promising to strengthen Seoul’s economic and security ties with Washington in order to better manage North Korean issues and cope with possible supply chain concerns caused by the pandemic, US-China competition, and Russia’s conflict against Ukraine.

Tensions have arisen between the two allies over electric vehicles, but security worries are anticipated to dominate Harris’ one-day visit.

This year, South Korea and the United States restarted large-scale joint military drills that had been reduced or stopped by the Trump administration in order to buttress their ultimately failed nuclear negotiations with Kim.

Both nations’ armed forces conducted a military drill off South Korea’s east coast earlier this week, which included the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which was in South Korea for the first time in five years.

In addition, the South Korean Navy will conduct trilateral anti-submarine drills with US and Japanese troops on Friday in order to improve their capacity to handle growing North Korean threats, such as submarine-launched ballistic missiles. sailors

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville, the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry, the South Korean destroyer Munmu the Great, and the Japanese tanker Asahi will participate in the manoeuvres.

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