VP Kamala Harris arrives in South Korea after North launches missiles

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris looks through binoculars at a military observation post in the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas in Panmunjom, South Korea on September 29, 2022. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea -- Sept. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in South Korea on Thursday morning amid rising tensions just hours after North Korea launched a pair of ballistic missiles.

Harris touched down at Osan Air Base on Air Force Two for a one-day visit that includes a meeting with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and a trip to the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.


Her arrival comes as the United States and South Korea wrap up four days of naval exercises involving the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, joint drills that North Korea earlier this week slammed as "an extremely dangerous act" that could lead to the "brink of war."

The White House said Harris' trip to the DMZ was meant as a "show of commitment" to defending South Korea.

"The key messaging that she's talking about on this trip is how our defense commitments are ironclad," a senior official said in a background briefing on Wednesday. "We know there's been a lot of discussions with the Koreans about extended deterrence commitments. And to really put those words into action, we believe it's a powerful signal of that."


North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea between Korea and Japan on Wednesday, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The missiles traveled around 224 miles and reached an altitude of 19 miles.

The launch was the North's second in less than a week amid a record number of weapons tests this year, and officials in Washington and Seoul have said Pyongyang is poised to conduct its seventh nuclear detonation at any time.

The United States and South Korea have ramped up their military engagement in recent months under the administration of Yoon, who has looked to take a stronger stance against an increasingly truculent North. Pyongyang recently announced a new law officially declaring itself a nuclear weapons state and giving it the right to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

Harris arrived in South Korea from Japan, where she led a delegation to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The visit is her first to South Korea as vice president. The last visit by a U.S. vice president came in February 2018, when Mike Pence attended the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

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