US Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the de-militarised zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea on Thursday, according to US and South Korean officials. South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo announced the visit on Tuesday during a meeting with Harris in Tokyo and was later confirmed by a US official.
Harris is in the region to lead a US presidential delegation to the funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday.
“Nearly 70 years since the Korean Armistice, the visit will underscore the strength” of the “alliance” between Seoul and Washington “in the face of any threats posed” by North Korea, the US official said.
The official asked not to be named discussing a trip that Harris has not officially announced, Reuters reported.
Harris would tour the DMZ, meet with service members, receive an operational briefing from US commanders, reflect on the shared sacrifice of American and South Korean soldiers and reaffirm the “ironclad” commitment to South Korean security, the official added.
Earlier, a US official had warned that a nuclear test or other provocation by North Korea was possible during Harris’ trip to the region. On Sunday, North Korea fired a ballistic missile towards the sea ahead of planned military drills by South Korean and US forces involving an aircraft carrier.
After the launch, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Kim Seung-kyum and the US Forces Korea Commander Paul LaCamera discussed the situation and reaffirmed their readiness to respond to any threat or provocation from North Korea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
South Korea’s President, Yoon Suk-yeol has promised a tougher stance on North Korea and indicated closer ties with the US.
“Our military maintains a full readiness posture and is closely cooperating with the US while strengthening surveillance and vigilance,” South Korean military said in a statement.
“It’s North Korea’s way of showing defiance of the [US] alliance,” Soo Kim, an analyst at the Rand Corporation, told AFP.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have spiked in the past year, with Pyongyang firing a number of ballistic missiles.
(With inputs from agencies)