The US leader is in Southeast Asia to counter China’s influence and revive US global leadership. In the vaccine war, the US will provide an additional million doses of vaccine to Vietnam within 24 hours. The region’s countries prefer a policy of balance between the two powers.
Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Following the Afghan debacle, which has left a raw wound and a point of friction with its Western allies, the United States is trying to revive its global leadership.
To this end, US Vice-President Kamala Harris travelled to Southeast Asia, starting in Singapore. This will be followed by a visit to Vietnam, a challenge in itself. The ultimate goal is to get the region’s countries to stand up to China.
However, both Singapore and Vietnam have close economic ties to China. Only the Philippines seems to be drawing closer to the United States after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to a military deal with Washington.
Vice President Harris’s mission in the South China Sea region suggests that the Biden administration is following in the footsteps of Barack Obama, who had made the area one of the strategic points of US foreign policy.
However, the conflicting interests of the Trump administration, the trade war with China, and the COVID-19 pandemic with the consequent "vaccine war" have changed the situation.
In Singapore, the US vice president reiterated America’s role as a "global leader", overshadowed by recent events in Afghanistan, and confirmed its "enduring commitments" in Asia to a "free and open” Indo-Pacific region.
Without mentioning China, Harris accused Beijing of coercion and intimidation in the Asia-Pacific region, with conflicting territorial claims between the region’s countries. Washington, she said, “stands with our allies and partners in the face of these threats".
China’s reply was immediate, with official state media strongly criticising the US vice president's remarks in Singapore.
According to the China Daily, they reveal the hypocritical attitude of the US which tries to "intimidate" the region’s countries "to join Washington in its scheme to contain China”.
“It seems that the United States’ only commitment to Southeast Asia is its dedicated efforts to drive a wedge between the Southeast Asian nations and China,” it added.
For the current US administration, the rivalry with China remains "the greatest geopolitical test" of the century and Southeast Asia is of strategic importance, so much so that it has already been visited by several high-profile US diplomats in recent weeks.
After Singapore, the US vice president headed to Hanoi where she arrived today, albeit with some problems.
Her arrival was delayed by "an anomalous health accident" involving some officials at the US embassy in Vietnam who were affected – at least this is the suspicion – by the so-called Havana syndrome, a condition that includes dizziness, nausea, migraines and memory lapses.
For US intelligence, the syndrome might be linked to high-frequency electromagnetic waves deliberately generated by Russia.
In Hanoi, the US leader will conduct a series of meetings with government officials, as well as attend the opening ceremony of the regional office of the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.
In the Vietnamese capital, she will also participate in a virtual meeting of the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on countering the novel coronavirus.
As part of the vaccine war with China, Harris promised Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh that the US would provide an additional million doses of the anti-COVID-19 vaccine within 24 hours, for a grand total to six million.
She also reassured Vietnamese President Ngyuen Xuan Phuc that the US would provide assistance in defending the seas from external threats (read China).
In covering the Harris visit, Chinese media have slammed her attempt to boost US-Vietnamese ties, highlighting instead Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s statement before Harris’s arrival that Vietnam would never join an alliance promoted by the US against China.