U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the de-militarised zone (DMZ) separating the Koreas on Thursday in a bid to show Washington's commitment to the South's security, according to U.S. and South Korean officials, APA reports citing Reuters.
The visit, announced on Tuesday, comes days after North Korea fired a ballistic missile towards the sea and amid fears of a possible nuclear test as the Biden administration's attempts at outreach to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have failed.
Harris' visit was publicly confirmed by South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo during a meeting with the U.S. vice president in Tokyo and was later confirmed by a U.S. official.
The U.S. vice president is in the region to lead a U.S. 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 U.S. official said.
The official asked not to be named discussing a trip that Harris has not officially announced.
Harris would tour the DMZ, meet with service members, receive an operational briefing from U.S. commanders, reflect on the shared sacrifice of American and South Korean soldiers and reaffirm the "ironclad" commitment to South Korean security, the official added.
"Your visit to the DMZ and Seoul will be very symbolic demonstrations of your strong commitments to security and peace on the Korean Peninsula," Han said.
Many foreign dignitaries visiting the region make a trip to the heavily fortified DMZ separating the two Koreas. Several former U.S. presidents, and Biden himself before he became president, have visited the DMZ, but former President Donald Trump became the first to have met a North Korean leader there when he held a third meeting with Kim in June 2019 as part of his unsuccessful effort to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear and missile programs.
The DMZ is often described as the world's last Cold War frontier and has existed since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a armistice rather than a peace treaty.
North Korea says it maintains its sovereign right to self defence, and has accused both the United States and South Korea of a hostile posture to the country.