Kamala Harris to focus on defending foreign rules in South China Sea

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Washington, Aug 3 - Vice President Kamala Harris will focus on defending foreign rules in the South China SeaChina Sea, strengthening U.S. regional leadership and expanding security cooperation during her trip to Vietnam and Singapore this month, said a senior White House official Reuters.

She is the first U.S. vice-president to visit Vietnam as Washington seeks to build international support to counter China's growing global influence.

Washington said Washington saw both countries as key partners given their locations, the size of their economies, trade ties and security partnerships on issues like South China SeaChina Sea, which China claims almost in its entirety.

Former U.S. foe Vietnam has been a vocal opponent of China's South China SeaChina Sea claims. Countries in the region welcome U.S. military presence there in response to China's militarization of the waterway and its vast coastguard and fishing fleet.

We do not want to see any country dominate that region or take advantage of the power situation to compromise the sovereignty of others, White House official said.

The Vice President is going to underscore that there is due free passage in the South China SeaChina Sea for trade, and no single country should disrespect the rights of others.

The U.S. Navy maintains a steady pattern of freedom of navigation operations in the Taiwan area and near South China SeaChina Sea, but these appear to have done little to discourage Beijing

Harris' trip will follow one by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week to Hanoi, where he sought to nudge toward steadily deepening security ties.

It will also follow high-level talks between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and senior Chinese diplomats last month that did little to ease deeply strained ties.

This week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will seek to reinforce the U.S. message that it is serious about engaging with Southeast Asia to push back against China by joining a series of regional meetings held virtually and not real-time.

On Tuesday, speaking at a virtual session of the Aspen Security Forum, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that high-level U.S. visits were greatly valued as they showed Washington knew it had substantial interests to protect and advance in the region.

However, he expressed concern about deteriorating U.S. China relations and said many countries hoped to see this checked because many U.S. friends and allies wish to maintain their extensive ties with both powers.

It's vital for the U.S. and China to struggle against each other to fight a clash that would be disastrous for both sides and the world, he said.

The White House official said the COVID -19 pandemic, vaccinations and quality of vaccines would also be a top priority for Harris.

In the last month, Washington shipped 3 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Hanoi, bringing total donations to Vietnam to 5 million.

Harris will be due to Singapore on 22 August. She departs in Vietnam on Aug. 24 and arrives on August 26.