Harris ends Asian tour with new warning to Beijing on China Sea
Steph Deschamps / August 26, 2021
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris issued a new warning to Beijing on Thursday from Hanoi, where she is wrapping up her Asian tour, to drop its claims to the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
We will speak out loud and clear if Beijing takes actions that threaten the international order, Harris said at a press briefing. Freedom of navigation is a vital issue for this region. Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, a strategic area rich in resources and through which much of the world's maritime trade passes, and is accused of deploying military installations there. Several Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, have competing claims. Harris visited Singapore and Vietnam in an attempt to revive U.S. alliances as Beijing vies with Washington for political influence and naval dominance in the Indo-Pacific region. During her tour, she repeatedly accused Chinese authorities of intimidating their neighbors. Beijing has retaliated with similar accusations about U.S. actions in Afghanistan.
The US vice president's visit to Vietnam came at a critical time for Washington. The fall of Kabul and the chaotic evacuations from the Afghan capital have reawakened the trauma of the Vietnam War and the flight of American diplomats from Saigon in 1975. Ms. Harris tried to focus attention on health security as Vietnam, like several countries in the region, faces an unprecedented coronavirus outbreak. She announced the donation of one million additional doses of vaccine to the country. But the frosty relationship between Washington and Beijing has focused attention.
There are many disputes, ranging from cybersecurity to the struggle for technological supremacy or human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Harris sought to allay fears, insisting Thursday that the United States was not seeking conflict with Beijing, but would remain committed to our partners. The vice president had arrived in Hanoi on Tuesday evening several hours late due to an abnormal health incident in the Vietnamese capital. This expression is generally used by Washington to refer to the Havana syndrome, mysterious ailments detected five years ago in Cuba and which have since affected American diplomats in several countries. The phenomenon has given rise to allegations, still unproven, accusing Russia or other countries of having used high-intensity electronic devices to physically harm these diplomats.