On Sunday, images of Harris emerged greeting the foreign affairs minister in Singapore, Vivian Balakrishnan; this happened as she arrived in Singapore, marking the start of her trip to Southeast Asia. It’s important to note that Harris’ visit happens amid a raging crisis in Afghanistan.
Harris is expected to address the growing influence and control of China in Southeast Asia
Harris is expected to use the trip to Southeast Asia to talk about the views of the U.S. with regard to the growing influence and power of China in the region. This includes the effort of the Chinese Communist Party to gain control of the South China Sea.
Ahead of VP Harris's trip to #SoutheastAsia @CSIS Senior Associate @MurrayHiebert1 explains that she will want to show allies that the U.S. has their back: “Both Vietnam and Singapore are quite anxious about what China is doing in the South China Sea." https://t.co/pMTEzGOL7Y
— CSIS Southeast Asia (@SoutheastAsiaDC) August 21, 2021
According to a senior official of the White House, the Biden administration is focused on keeping the Indo-Pacific region free and open. The official added that the trip of Vice President Harris will be in line with furthering that goal.
Harris will likewise echo the same vision in all of her scheduled meetings. The senior official then said that the Biden administration is trying to make it clear they have a lasting commitment to Southeast Asia, and that they are part of the Indo-Pacific.
The trip of Harris to Southeast Asia raised a series of questions as to why the vice president has left the country; meanwhile, the Biden administration is scrambling with the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. This crisis has been compared multiple times to the U.S. Embassy evacuation in Saigon by the end of the Vietnam War.
Kamala Harris starts historic Southeast Asia trip amid backdrop of Afghanistan crisis https://t.co/Vke0yDgwBM
— Axios (@axios) August 22, 2021
Before Harris left for the trip to Southeast Asia, she appeared alongside Biden as he tried to defend the move he made and the handling of deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan. It can be noted that chaos has overwhelmed the country after the U.S. withdrew its troops earlier this month.
Biden official: The administration can tend to more than one issue
However, Biden administration officials tried to defend Harris’ move by stating she will stay in close communication with the White House during the trip. The official also claimed that the administration can tend to more than one issue at a time, adding that they will do more than one thing as they focus on two top priorities for the U.S.
Harris’ trip also comes after she traveled to Mexico and Guatemala, allegedly to attend the “root causes” of the border crisis. The trip was likewise made during the height of the crisis, as the border and government officials are having a hard time dealing with the overwhelming surge of migrants.
A source close to the vice president stated that Harris is taking everything very seriously. With what’s going on in Afghanistan, Harris will be prepared because she is aware of what’s at stake. People will look at this trip to be more than just a visit to Southeast Asia, but also a trip about whether or not the U.S. will reassert its standing with other countries.