Afghanistan withdrawal overshadows Kamala Harris’ first Asia excursion as vice president

Penni Schewe

Hong Kong — Kamala Harris’ to start with journey to Asia as vice president was intended to sign the United States’ staunch dedication to partners in the Indo-Pacific area in the confront of a soaring China. As a substitute, Harris’ three-day stop in Singapore immediately turned into a system for journalists to problem her on the U.S.’ trustworthiness as a protection associate as Washington’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan ongoing.

In well prepared remarks to rolling cameras, the two Harris and Singapore’s Primary Minister Lee Hsien Loong focused on cooperation on COVID avoidance and regional security, but in an open up concern and solution session that adopted, reporters centered on Afghanistan, not the supposed themes of Harris’ excursion. 

The Singaporean leader discovered that his federal government experienced made available Washington a tanker transportation plane in assistance of endeavours to evacuate thousands of Individuals and their allies from Afghanistan. 

Later on on Monday, Harris satisfied U.S. sailors on the USS Tulsa warship, docked at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base. She explained she knew they would all be observing with issue the scenes unfolding in Kabul, where their fellow services associates have been continue to fast paced trying to evacuate thousands of U.S. nationals, their dependants and susceptible Afghans.

U.S. Vice President visits Singapore
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to troops as she visits the USS Tulsa in Singapore, August 23, 2021.

EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS


“We are grateful to individuals guys and girls in uniform, and the embassy staff members on the ground for bringing protection to Us residents and to the Afghans who get the job done aspect by facet with us, and to other Afghans at chance,” Harris mentioned aboard the Tulsa. “They are doing this mission in an extremely hard and dangerous natural environment. And the president and I are grateful for their provider, and as I know you all know, we send them our thoughts and our prayers from afar, and close up, we thank you just about every day for the do the job that you do.”

Harris’ go to to Singapore — a shut U.S. ally and critical base for the American Navy in Southeast Asia — follows trips by Secretary of Point out Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Asia around the previous thirty day period. The Biden administration has sought to reassure Asian allies anxious about China’s assertive policies in the region, but people efforts have been intricate by the mounting queries around the organizing and execution of the extended-envisioned withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“The purpose I am in this article is mainly because the US is a international chief, and we acquire that purpose significantly,” asserted Harris on Monday. She pressured the U.S.’ “enduring engagement” in Asia and strike on the Biden administration’s past chatting factors about an “open and free” Indo-Pacific and “independence of navigation” in the South China Sea.


Beijing actions up presence in South China Sea

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Beijing promises virtually all of the South China Sea as its territory. Various nations around the world in Southeast Asia dispute China’s expansive statements over islands, shoals and reefs in the sea, and methods beneath the seabed.

Harris’ trip to Asia, which will see her vacation to Vietnam on Tuesday soon after her time in Singapore, was supposed to thrust back in opposition to China’s escalating affect in the area, politically and economically, throughout Southeast Asia. On Tuesday she is scheduled to produce a speech detailing the White House’s policy for the total Indo-Pacific area.

Reporters’ preoccupation with the Afghan withdrawal on Monday overshadowed a series of new U.S.-Singapore agreements unveiled to coincide with the vice-president’s arrival. Accords had been achieved for the U.S. and Singapore to carry out far more tracing and analysis on COVID variants and therapies to share a lot more data to combat cyber threats and to build new clean power jobs to battle local climate improve below a so-termed U.S.-Singapore Climate Partnership. There ended up also pledges for closer cooperation on trade, defense and area exploration. 

“I am pleased that we are embarking on new places of partnership. We concluded a few agreements amongst our cyber, protection and finance agencies,” Singapore’s primary minister reported. 

U.S. Vice President visits Singapore
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris poses upcoming to Papilionanda Kamala Harris for the duration of an orchid naming ceremony at the Istana (presidential palace) in Singapore, August 23, 2021.

EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS


Vice President Harris’ formal timetable commenced on Monday soon after she landed in Singapore on Air Power Two the former day.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong welcomed her at the presidential palace. A marching band played the Star Spangled Banner and Lee gifted Harris with a new hybrid orchid species named in her honor — a Singapore tradition for large-level guests recognized as “orchid diplomacy.” Preceding orchid recipients consist of Princess Diana, Michelle Obama and Nelson Mandela.


Tensions between the U.S. and China are risin…

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The second and ultimate leg of Harris’ Asia journey begins in earnest on Wednesday in Vietnam, where the South China Sea territorial concerns loom just off the coast. Vietnam and China have been engaged in a very long-working dispute around a little group of islands identified as the Spratly Islands.

China’s foreign ministry, in a frequent day-to-day push conference on Monday, reacted coolly to Harris’ journey, though China’s nationalistic World-wide Situations tabloid published a strident editorial, with a warning to Beijing’s neighbors.

“China and nations around the world together with Vietnam have maritime territorial disputes,” wrote the Global Situations. “People nations want to make use of the electricity of the U.S. to improve their bargaining chips when struggling with China. To some extent, these a predicament is hard to steer clear of. But they need to have to be incredibly mindful when executing so.” 

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