VP Harris Goes to South Korea & the North Korean Response

Written by Camden Hanley

October 3, 2022

This week US VP Kamala Harris visited South Korea to meet with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. The trip “underscored that the United States is committed to defending [South Korea] …and welcomed [their] close co-operation.” The two leaders criticized North Korean proactive nuclear rhetoric and ballistic missile launches. In the spirit of this co-operation, the US and South Korea held joint naval exercises around Korean peninsula this week as well. Responses to potential further North Korean provocations were discussed, including trilateral co-operation with Japan.

In response to these exercises and the visit, North Korea launched ballistic missiles on three separate occasions. The first were fired on Sunday before the naval exercises began, the second two were fired on the eve of VP Harris’s visit, and the last two were launched hours after she left. This year, North Korea has launched a record number of missiles, launching more than 30 total. At the UN General Assembly, Pyongyang criticized the US and South Korea for their military exercises, saying they were bringing the peninsula to the “brink of war.” For their part, the US and South Korea defeat the exercises saying they aim to stabilize the region.

North Korea’s assertiveness over its nuclear weapons is growing, worrying the US and South Korea. Pyongyang recently passed a law declaring itself a nuclear weapons state. Kim Jong-un has vowed his country will not give up their weapons or engage in nuclear disarmament. The law allows for North Korea to use nuclear weapons to strike first, a deviation from previous policy that stated their nuclear weapons were only a deterrent for preventing war. US and South Korean intelligence worry the North Koreans may conduct a nuclear test soon. They believe they are waiting on a politically opportune moment, possibly between mid-October and early November.

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