Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States called for Vietnam to join the U.S. in order to stop China’s bullying behavior in the South China Sea. This is a continuation to her harsh rhetoric against Beijing during her week-long tour through Southeast Asia.
She said that Beijing must be forced to adhere to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and challenged for its bullying and excessive maritime claims.
She made these comments after a sharp speech Tuesday in Singapore in which she criticized Beijing’s actions in South China Sea.
Harris said Wednesday that the U.S. supported sending Vietnam an additional U.S. Coast Guard cutter to protect its security interests in South China Sea. She also supported elevating Vietnam’s relationship from a comprehensive partnership into a strategic partnership. This diplomatic designation would reflect the deeperening relationship between these former foes.
These are the latest moves of the Biden administration in its efforts to strengthen alliances in the Indo-Pacific area in an attempt to counter China’s power. Harris’ visit to Singapore, which also included a stop at Singapore earlier in the week, was intended to increase U.S. engagement and confirm the U.S. commitment for the region.
Harris is the first U.S. Vice President to visit Vietnam.
She also announced the opening of a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Southeast Asia office. The new CDC regional office will be one the four global offices. It’s geared towards collaborating with regional governments to conduct research and provide training in order to address and prevent global health crises.
This announcement comes at a time when Vietnam is struggling with high levels of coronavirus infection due to the delta variant and low vaccination rates. Ho Chi Minh City was the epicenter of this latest outbreak and has been locked down due to the recent surge in cases.
Harris will likely offer additional U.S. assistance to the country to increase its vaccination rate which currently hovers at 2%. She will also highlight the possibility of greater cooperation to address climate change, and economic aid to the nation.
Harris will be joining a health security event in the afternoon with health ministers from Papua New Guinea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. She’ll talk more about the launch of CDC Center.
Harris will try to focus her attention on Vietnam’s key issues, but her visit will be influenced by the recent security crisis in Vietnam and developments in Afghanistan.
According to administration officials, Harris’ flight from the United States to Vietnam was delayed several hours on Tuesday afternoon as a result of an investigation into two cases of the Havana Syndrome in Hanoi. The Havana Syndrome refers to a series of strange health incidents that were first reported in 2016 by American diplomats.