Kamala Harris (US Vice President) is about to present the Biden administration’s vision on the Indo-Pacific, an area that is becoming increasingly important to a government who has made countering China’s influence worldwide a core part of its foreign strategy.
The address Tuesday at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay waterfront park, Tuesday morning, is an opportunity for the former U.S. senator and state attorney general to show her fluidity regarding diplomatic and security issues.
Harris remarks also occur at a critical time for the United States. The Biden administration is trying to strengthen its pivot towards Asia. America’s decades-long focus upon the Middle East will come to an abrupt end with its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
According to a White House official, Harris will address security, economic partners, and global public health in the region. She will also speak out about the importance of an open Indo-Pacific. This implicitly contrasts with Beijing, whose intrusions in the disputed South China Sea raised alarms among some countries.
Aides suggest Harris’s comments are likely to echo the U.S. speech and build upon them. In June, Harris graduated from Naval Academy. Here she described a world where everything is interconnected, interdependent, and fragmented.
Harris said to sailors aboard the U.S. combat ship Changi at Singapore’s Changi naval base Monday that a significant part of history will be written on this region and that the U.S. was committed to defending the region.
“It is our vital interest to stand together with our allies, our partners in Southeast Asia in defence of a free Indo-Pacific,” she stated.
Harris is on an extended week-long travel through Southeast Asia. Monday saw her visit Singapore for meetings to Singapore President Halimah Yacob (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong). The office of the vice-president announced that a number if agreements were reached at that meeting. These agreements included those related to cyberthreats as well as climate change and supply chain issues.
Harris will give her speech Tuesday at a roundtable with business leaders. Then she will travel to Vietnam for a meeting with top officials Wednesday.
Joe Biden has repeatedly highlighted America’s focus on China, making a February speech at The State Department pledging to “confront China’s financial abuses; counter it aggressive, coercive activity; to pushback on China’s attack of human rights and global governance” – a sentiment he repeated later that year to European allies at the virtual G7 Summit.
His administration has been increasing outreach to the Indo-Pacific area over the past months. Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, and Wendy Austin, Deputy Secretary, both visited the region this spring and summer. Antony Blinken (Secretary of State) also met with Southeast Asian officials in virtual meetings earlier this month.
The U.S. abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan caused havoc and raised questions about its commitment to allies. Biden last week stated that an indefinite engagement would benefit “true strategic adversaries” China and Russia. China however has taken advantage the images of violence after the evacuation to attack the U.S. for its involvement there.
Wang Wenbin of China’s Foreign Ministry stated Monday that America had done “unscrupulous, dishonest things” to Afghanistan. He urged the nation to help rebuild.
Wenbin stated that “the United States is the root cause of the Afghan issue and the largest external factor.” “It cannot go away like this.”
Harris stated that Harris’ presence was a sign of the “integrity of relationships that the United States maintains around the world on many topics” during Monday’s joint news conference with Prime Min Lee.