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Vice President Kamala Harris is visiting the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the Korean Peninsula on Thursday as the vice president’s trip to Asia concludes.
The heavily-fortified buffer zone, which separates North and South Korea, is Harris’s final stop on the diplomatic trip. The gesture of visiting the DMZ is designed to illustrate America’s “rock-solid commitment” to regional security, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
The vice president is expected to discuss nuclear threats from North Korea and Washington’s commitment to assist South Korea with defense measures. Shortly before the DMZ visit, Harris met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and praised the U.S.-South Korean alliance as a “linchpin of security and prosperity.”
She and Yoon also discussed South Korea’s economic and technology partnerships with the United States earlier on Thursday, in addition to a gender equity roundtable.
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The visit comes a day after North Korea fired a third ballistic missile into the sea in an act of provocation by Kim Jong-Un. The country has previously fired two short-range ballistic missiles during Harris’s stay in Japan.
North Korea also made a similar gesture in June by firing a trio of missiles before President Biden’s visit to Seoul that month.
Harris has condemned North Korea’s “illicit weapons program” during a Wednesday speech at United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka, a U.S. Naval base.
Jean-Pierre said North Korea’s missile test was “not unusual” on Wednesday, while affirming that it would not dissuade Harris from visiting the DMZ.
“As you know, North Korea has a history of doing these types of tests,” she said.
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South Korean activists were seen protesting against Harris’ visit near the Presidential Office in Seoul on Thursday. The protestors wore masks showing the faces of Harris and President Yoon as they demonstrated against the U.S.-South Korean alliance.
Harris’s visit has also drawn criticism from Republicans who claim she has neglected the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
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After the DMZ visit, Harris will depart from Osan Air Base and fly back to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.