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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Vietnam Is Key Stop for Vice President Harris

Vietnam kamala Harris
Evelyn Hockstein/AP
/
Pool REUTERS
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks during the official launch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Southeast Asia regional office in Hanoi, Vietnam, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris was in Vietnam Wednesday — the second stop of her first trip to Asia as vice president. The visit is getting publicity in the region, and close attention from Beijing.

It’s no coincidence that China delivered 200,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam this week, shortly before Harris was due to arrive there.

And even closer to the time when her plane landed in Hanoi, China’s ambassador held a previously unannounced meeting with Vietnam’s Prime Minister.

Vietnam and China have been at odds over territorial claims in the South China Sea, a topic that Harris has already mentioned on this trip — and is sure to repeat.

During her stop in Singapore, Harris said China’s “unlawful claims” in the South China Sea continue to “undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations” — drawing a sharp reaction from Beijing.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said “current events in Afghanistan clearly demonstrate the U.S.’s so-called rules and order.”

Comparisons between Kabul 2021 and Saigon 1975 were not expected to be part of this trip when it was planned — but Harris is maintaining her message that the United States is a better regional partner than China — and not only in security.

The U.S. has contributed more than 5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Vietnam — and while she’s in the country Harris will open a Southeast Asia regional office for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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