Vice President Harris's trip to Asia will show US is in region 'to stay'

Senior official says trip's focus will be on defending international rules in the South China Sea, among other issues

US Vice President Kamala Harris will be the first US vice president to visit Vietnam. AFP
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US Vice President Kamala Harris's coming trip to Vietnam and Singapore will show that the US is in the region “to stay”, a senior administration official said, as the US seeks to bolster international support to counter China's growing global influence.

Ms Harris's trip to Asia aims to establish deeper ties with a network of allies in South-East Asia, which the US considers key to checking Chinese expansion.

A senior White House official told Reuters this month that the vice president's focus would be on defending international rules in the South China Sea, strengthening US regional leadership and expanding security cooperation in the region.

“The administration is … making clear that we have an enduring commitment to this region, that we're part of the Indo-Pacific and in the region to stay,” the official said.

The trip comes as the Biden administration is battling a crisis following its decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan. The official said Ms Harris would continue to work on issues tied to Afghanistan while on her Asia trip.

“It's been an overwhelming focus and priority of the whole team including the vice president … at the same time, it is also true that South-East Asia and the Indo-Pacific are really important. And that's why she's going,” the official added.

Ms Harris is due to arrive Singapore on Sunday. She will be the first US vice president to visit Vietnam and arrives in the country on Tuesday, departing next Thursday.

During her trip, Ms Harris will hold a phone call with Singapore's President Halimah Yacob, participate in a bilateral meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and deliver remarks on a US combat ship visiting Singapore. She will also hold a meeting to discuss supply-chain issues with representatives from the private sector and the government.

In Hanoi, Vietnam, Ms Harris will meet leaders including President Ngyuen Xuan Phuc and Prime Minister Pham Ming Chinh, and lead the US delegation in launching a regional office for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Updated: August 21, 2021, 9:19 AM