US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates got a glimpse of North Korea, when they visited the demilitarised zone (DMZ) dividing the peninsula.
Clinton and Gates peered through binoculars at Observation Point Ouellette, a sand-bagged perch on a hilltop manned by US and South Korean soldiers. Under a slight drizzle, they saw a massive North Korean flag flying in the distance.
"We continue to send a message to the North: that there is another way," Clinton said. "But until they change direction, the United States stands firmly on behalf of the people and the government of the Republic of Korea," said Clinton, who is visiting DMZ for the first time.
Nearly two million troops are located on either side of the 4-kilometer wide 245 km long border that divides the two Koreas. The armistice that ended fighting in 1953 between US-led UN forces and Communist Chinese and North Korean troops has not been converted into a peace treaty.
"It's stunning how little has changed up in the North and yet how much South Korea continues to grow and prosper. The North, by contrast, stagnates in isolation and deprivation," said Gates.
Clinton and Gates are in South Korea to lend support to the US-South Korea military alliance following the March sinking of a South Korean naval vessel that took the lives of 46 sailors.
A South Korean-led investigation found North Korea responsible for the sinking, allegations it denies.
It comes as the US Secretary of State announced new sanctions against Pyongyang, including arm sales and freezing assets of leading officials.