Kamala Harris will focus on defending international rules in the South China SeaChina Sea, strengthening U.S. leadership in the region and expanding cooperation on matters of security during her trip to Vietnam and Singapore, a senior White House official told Reuters.
The trip will be Harris's first visit in the region, making her the only U.S. vice president to visit Vietnam and is aimed at building international support for China's growing global influence.
The countries are critical partners for the United States because of their location, size of their economies, their trade relationship with the United States and security partnership on issues such as South China SeaChina Sea, the official said.
Former U.S. foe Vietnam emerged as the key partner of the United States and a vocal opponent for China's territorial claims in the South China SeaChina Sea. Several countries in the region largely welcome an U.S. presence in their face of Beijing's militarization of the waterway and its expansive coastguard and fishing fleet.
We do not want any country to dominate this region or take advantage of the power situation to compromise the sovereignty of others, White House official said.
The Vice President is going to highlight that there should be free passage for trade, throughout the South China SeaChina Sea, and no single country should disrespect the right of others, the official added.
The U.S. Navy maintains a steady pattern of freedom of navigation operations in Taiwan and in the South China SeaChina Sea, but these appear to have done little to discourage Beijing.
His trip will follow one that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made last week in Hanoi, where he sought to close forward security ties that have been steadily deepening amid shared concern about China's activities in the South China SeaChina Sea.
It will also follow high-level talks in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and senior diplomats, which ended with both sides signaling that the other must make concessions for ties to improve.
This will not be Harris' first meeting with leaders in Asia. She has previously held in-person and virtual bilateral meetings from the White House with the South Korean President Moon Jae-In and the Prime Minister of Japan, Suga Yoshihide. The Pandemic, vaccinations and quality of vaccines will also be a top priority for the Vice President, the official said.
Last month, United States shipped 3 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination in Vietnam, which brought total contributions to Vietnam to 5 million.
Harris will meet government, civil society and private sector leaders in both countries. She departs Singapore on August 20, and will arrive in the United States on 22 Aug.