WASHINGTON: US Vice President Kamala Harris' upcoming trip to Vietnam and Singapore will show that the United States is in the region "to stay", a senior administration official said, as the US seeks to bolster international support to counter China's growing global influence.
Harris' trip to Asia aims to establish deeper ties with a network of allies in Southeast Asia, which the United States considers key to checking Chinese expansion.
A senior White House official told Reuters earlier this month that the vice president's focus would be on defending international rules in the South China Sea, strengthening US regional leadership and expanding security cooperation in the region.
"The administration is ... making clear that we have an enduring commitment to this region, that we're part of the Indo-Pacific and in the region to stay," the official said.
The trip comes at a time when the Biden administration is battling a crisis following its decision to pull out troops from Afghanistan. The official said Harris would continue to work on issues tied to Afghanistan while on her Asia trip.
"It's been an overwhelming focus and priority of the whole team including the vice president ... at the same time, it is also true that Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific are really important. And that's why she's going," the official added.
Harris is due in Singapore on Sunday. She will be the first US vice president to visit Vietnam and arrives in the country on Tuesday and departs next Thursday.
During her trip, Harris will meet Singapore President Halimah Yacob, participate in a bilateral meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and deliver remarks on a US combat ship visiting Singapore. She will also hold a meeting to discuss supply chain issues with representatives from the private sector and government.
In Hanoi, Vietnam, Harris will meet with leaders including President Ngyuen Xuan Phuc and Prime Minister Pham Ming Chinh and lead the US delegation in launching a regional office for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.