Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday mistakenly touted the U.S. alliance “with the Republic of North Korea” during her visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating the Korean Peninsula, in a gaffe marring her high-profile trip to the buffer zone amid skyrocketing tensions in the region.
“The United States shares a very important relationship, which is an alliance with the Republic of North Korea,” Ms. Harris told reporters at the DMZ, misstating South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.
The White House released an official transcript of her comments with the word “North” crossed out.
Ms. Harris’ remarks at the DMZ capped her four-day trip to Asia adding to White House actions meant to bolster the vice president’s foreign policy chops, as speculation grows over U.S. President Biden’s intent to seek reelection in 2024.
Ms. Harris is the highest-ranking official to visit the DMZ since Donald Trump’s 2019 meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. Visits to the demarcation zone have become a diplomatic rite-of-passage for senior officials and politicians.
Photos of Ms. Harris’ visit showed her standing next to senior U.S. military officials holding binoculars and pointing across the border.
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Ms. Harris’s previous forays into foreign policy have come under scrutiny by Republicans who question her ability to deal with high-pressure situations which have global ramifications.
In March, Ms. Harris led a U.S. delegation to reassure NATO allies Poland and Romania weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
During that trip, she came under fire for a series of gaffes during closely watched press conferences. Critics accused her of belting out an uncomfortable laugh in response to a question about countries accepting immigrants fleeing war-torn Ukraine.
The gaffe led a former spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to write “It would be a tragedy if this woman won the presidency,” on Twitter before deleting the response.
Ms. Harris‘ trip to the DMZ was also closely watched by her critics.
Republicans seized on the vice president’s visit to the border between the two Koreas after details of the trip were unveiled earlier this week. Ms. Harris was tapped to be Mr. Biden’s czar to the U.S. southern border early in the administration.
Critics have accused Ms. Harris of turning a blind eye to the growing crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where migrants have poured in under the Biden administration.
“Kamala is going to the Korean DMZ to review their border security,” Rep. Ronnie Jackson, Texas Republican, said on Twitter after the trip was announced. “Would it be too much to ask for her to visit OUR BORDER!?”
The latest gaffe marred Ms. Harris’s trip just before she was set to return to Washington after making stops in Tokyo and Seoul.
Prior to her misstatement at the border, the vice president had been carrying out her duties without incident in back-to-back meetings with senior officials and heads of state in the region.