WASHINGTON (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): United States Vice-President Kamala Harris will emphasise America’s enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific region during her upcoming visit to Singapore and Vietnam, senior US officials said on Thursday (Aug 19).
“This region, South-East Asia, really matters to the United States,” one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters during a briefing.
“The Vice-President... recognises that much of the history of the 21st century will be written in the Indo-Pacific. We have enduring interests there. And that’s why she is so focused on this region and making this trip,” he added.
Harris’ trip to South-East Asia will be her second foreign trip since taking office in January, and the first visit by any US vice-president to Vietnam.
She will be the most senior US official to visit the region since President Joe Biden was sworn in in January, and her trip comes on the heels of Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin’s visit to Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines last month.
The official said her trip will highlight the Biden administration’s focus on revitalising alliances and partnerships around the world, and that Harris “recognises the significance of showing up and engaging on the ground”.
Her visit comes amid concerns in Washington that China is gaining influence in South-East Asia, fuelled by an apparent earlier neglect of the region by Washington.
Her trip will make clear that America is part of the Indo-Pacific region and “here to stay”, and will further the Biden administration’s goal of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, said the official.
Officials said that Harris will focus on the key areas of global public health, economic partnership, and security.
She will also discuss addressing the threat of climate change, America’s commitment to the rules-based international order, worker rights, human rights, as well as regional issues including China.
Harris will depart Washington DC on Friday (Aug 20) and arrive in Singapore on Sunday.
On Monday, she will call on President Halimah Yacob and meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to discuss the full range of issues in bilateral relationship, before having a joint press conference with PM Lee.
In the afternoon, the Vice-President will visit Changi Naval Base, where she will give brief remarks to US sailors on the USS Tulsa, an American littoral combat ship currently visiting Singapore.
“The Vice-President’s trip to the base will underscore the strong security ties between Singapore and the United States. Our partnership with Singapore really is the bedrock of our security presence in South-east Asia,” said another official.
Harris will give a policy speech on Tuesday morning, making the case for why America’s partnerships matter, particularly those in South-East Asia and the Indo-Pacific region, and discussing the Biden administration’s vision for engagement in the region and how it intends to deliver on it.
“She’ll make clear that the US has an enduring commitment to the region, and she’ll outline key areas of our partnership and how we intend to strengthen those areas,” the official added.
The Vice-President will then take part in a roundtable session with supply chain thought leaders, government officials and private sector representatives, where she will discuss supply chain resiliency issues.
Harris will meet with staff from the US Embassy in Singapore, before departing for Vietnam, where she will arrive in Hanoi in the evening.
On Wednesday, she will have several government meetings, before leading the US delegation in co-hosting the official launch of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s South-east Asia regional office in Hanoi.
“They will discuss America’s response to the pandemic, and how we all need to work together to end the pandemic and strengthen global health security,” said the official.
On Thursday, Harris will meet with civil society representatives and meet staff from the US Embassy in Hanoi during an embassy lease-signing event.
On the way back to Washington, she will stop in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she will meet and deliver remarks to US troops stationed there at Joint Base Pearl Harbour-Hickam.