OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author’s opinion
Vice President Kamala Harris will be in charge of the United States’ outreach effort in Asia as China makes moves on its Southeast Asian neighbors amid America’s declining standing on the world stage.
In what is set to become Harris’ most high-profile international tour to Asia, Harris will be visiting both Singapore and Vietnam starting this weekend to bolster economic and military cooperation between the United States and its Asian partners.
“We couldn’t have a higher priority right now. And a particular high priority is making sure that we safely evacuate American citizens, Afghans who worked for them, Afghans at risk, including women and children,” Harris said before getting on a plane to Singapore.
“And that is one of our highest, if not the highest, priority right now. And it’s a big area of focus for me in the past days and weeks, and will continue to be,” she said.
Following its decision to withdraw from Afghanistan and relinquish its geopolitical influence in Central Asia, the White House is planning a diplomatic offensive in Southeast Asia. The move is a reversal of years of passive US engagement in the region, which recently saw top diplomats dispatched to the region with COVID-19 vaccines in hand that has accounted for roughly a fifth of the 111.7 million doses that the United States has donated globally.
Harris’ visit to Southeast Asia follows the signing of a military deal with the Philippines in July, signaling a more aggressive posture in a part of the world that has become economically tied to China due to the absence of US influence.
According to Bloomberg, Southeast Asian leaders are seeking reassurances from Harris that the United States remains committed as a trading partner that can offer a reliable security presence against Beijing’s moves in the South China Sea. However, Asian leaders are wary of making any alienating comments that may anger or worry their Chinese business partners. Southeast Asian countries are highly dependent on China in a variety of sectors, namely exports.
Southeast Asian leaders do not want to choose between the United States and China on a wide range of issues, including financial aid and the development of 5G networks.
“In many ways, the US is playing catch up in Asia as a result of its paying little attention to the region over the last 20 years,” said Carl Schuster to Bloomberg. Schuster is a former operations director at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center.
“I can assure you no Southeast Asian country wants to choose between the U.S. and China. They see no benefits to choosing sides and a lot of disadvantages,” he added.
The trip offers the United States an opportunity to renegotiate its flagging position in the region while simultaneously presenting Harris a personal opportunity to raise her international profile as she is expected to succeed President Joe Biden, who is facing a loss of confidence in the polls. However, Harris’ visit may be tainted by America’s pullout from Afghanistan which is expected to raise questions from America’s allies in the region over Biden’s dismal handling of the withdrawal effort.
According to White House officials, Harris will continue to receive intelligence briefings on Afghanistan and will be in regular communication with the administration.
Bloomberg reports that the vice president will hold a joint news conference with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday and will participate in a round table focused on supply chain resilience. Harris is also expected to launch a regional office for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Other top priorities for both the United States and its Asian partners will be filling the void left by the Trump administration’s cancellation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, which includes four Southeast Asian nations. The Biden administration is discussing proposals for a new digital trade agreement that covers Southeast Asian countries as a check on Chinese influence.
“It is important for us to reestablish the connection,” said Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s trade and industry minister. “We do want to see stronger engagement from the U.S. in this region in terms of the economic area, as well as other areas, politics.”
While previous visits to Southeast Asia were performed by sitting US Presidents, Harris’ trip to Vietnam will mark the first time a vice president has visited the formally communist country since the Vietnam war ended in 1975.
Former President Donald Trump skipped most major gatherings in the region, stocking alarm over America’s commitment to trade in the region. According to Bloomberg, the Biden administration intends to repair its image and has adopted a less confrontational tone over China issues, which should allow Southeast Asian countries to feel more comfortable establishing trade deals with the United States. However, Biden’s actions in Afghanistan may overshadow all the proceedings.
Article Source : Conservativebrief.com