Vice President Kamala Harris commends US alliance with ‘Republic of North Korea’ in DMZ speech gaffe

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Vice President Kamala Harris made an unfortunate gaffe during her speech at the Korean Peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Thursday, saying that the United States has a “strong alliance” with “the Republic of North Korea.”

“It is an alliance that is strong and enduring,” she added, intending to refer to the Republic of Korea, which is South Korea’s official name.

The vice president then continued her remarks by professing the US’s support for South Korea’s defense against the increasingly-aggressive North Korean government.

“I cannot state enough that the commitment of the United States to the defense of the Republic of Korea is iron-clad, and that we will do everything in our power to ensure that it has meaning in every way that the words suggest,” Harris said.

VP KAMALA HARRIS VISITS JAPAN TO DISCUSS TAIWANESE SECURITY SITUATION: OFFICIAL

Harris and South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol condemned North Koreas ballistic missile launches and discussed response to potential future provocations, according to a White House readout of the meeting between the two leaders.
(SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The heavily-fortified DMZ, a buffer zone that separates North and South Korea, was Harris’s final stop on her diplomatic trip to Asia. 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.

Harris began her visit by stopping at the Camp Bonifas Dining Facility and thanking American service members. She used binoculars to observe the DMZ, which is roughly 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. The vice president then headed to Observation Post Ouellette to give her speech about her commitment to South Korea’s security.

Shortly before the DMZ visit, Harris met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and praised the US-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.

Vice President Kamala Harris, right, looks towards the north side of the border at the Demilitarized Zone in Paju, South Korea, on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

Vice President Kamala Harris, right, looks towards the north side of the border at the Demilitarized Zone in Paju, South Korea, on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.
(SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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 US Naval base.

Vice President Kamala Harris shakes hands with South Korea's President Yoon Suk-Yeol before their bilateral meeting in Seoul on Sept. 29, 2022.

Vice President Kamala Harris shakes hands with South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-Yeol before their bilateral meeting in Seoul on Sept. 29, 2022.
(LEAH MILLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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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North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into waters off its east coast, ramping up tensions a day before Vice President Kamala Harris's visit to the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into waters off its east coast, ramping up tensions a day before Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.
(SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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 US-South Korean alliance.

Harris’s visit has also drawn criticism from Republicans who claim she has neglected the migrant crisis at the US-Mexico border.

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Activists wear masks showing the faces of Vice President Kamala Harris and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol during a protest against Harris' visit and the South Korea-US alliance, near the Presidential Office in Seoul on September 29, 2022.

Activists wear masks showing the faces of Vice President Kamala Harris and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol during a protest against Harris’ visit and the South Korea-US alliance, near the Presidential Office in Seoul on September 29, 2022.
(ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

After the DMZ visit, Harris departed from Osan Air Base to fly back to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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