Kamala Harris is on the second leg of her trip to Southeast Asia, meeting in Vietnam with top leaders. She is assuring them of the United States’ support in dealing with China’s bullying in the South China Sea. The vice-president is also pledging new foreign aid, including opening up a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Southeast Asia regional office.
Her speech highlights to leaders in Singapore the day before were much the same as in Vietnam. Kamala said it is necessary to apply pressure on China to follow international laws in the South China Sea and prevent Beijing from bullying its neighbors. In recent years, China has claimed more and more of the South China Sea as its own, elbowing out regional governments like Vietnam who depends on the vital waterway for trade, as do Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.
“We will work closely with Vietnam to uphold the rules-based international order, including freedom of navigation, an issue that we take seriously, and including as it relates to the South China Sea,” Harris said Wednesday during a meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
“We need to find ways to pressure and raise the pressure, frankly, on Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and to challenge its bullying and excessive maritime claims.”
As you might imagine, China quickly responded to Kamala’s claims that China is trying to intimidate other countries in the South China Sea. And, using the example of Afghanistan, the Communists accuse the United States of only paying lip service to diplomacy.
“What is happening in Afghanistan clearly demonstrates that the [United States’] so-called ‘rules-based order’ is a way to arbitrarily intervene militarily in a sovereign country without being held responsible for the suffering of its people,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, according to the state-run Global Times.
Bumbling Biden is receiving the same kind of criticism in China’s state-run press that Trump did – acting alone without consulting allies.
Despite intensive visits by senior US officials to Southeast Asia recently, the US “lip service” diplomacy in enhancing the US’ presence in the Asia-Pacific region will only end up in vain amid its collapsing image over its hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, severely weighing on its “America’s back” strategy, which underscores that the US’ so-called rules-based order only serves its own hegemony, Chinese experts said.
The US can come and go whenever it wants without consulting the international community, or even its allies. It can smear, suppress, coerce and bully other countries at will without paying any price just to keep America first – that is the order the US wants, Wang said.
Unlike what Biden pulled in the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, though, Trump’s America First policies were never about America acting alone but America acting in its own best interests. It’s what sovereign countries do – protect themselves, whether in trade policies or in national defense. Biden has handled the Afghanistan withdrawal without so much as a heads-up to our allies on the ground and allowed Kabul to quickly fall into Taliban control.
It’s important that Kamala is reassuring our friends in Southeast Asia that the U.S. supports them against the Chinese government. I wish she would stop in Taiwan and give the same assurance to that country’s leadership. Unfortunately, our credibility is shot right now, thanks to Biden’s botching of his actions in Afghanistan. Trust has to be earned. Kamala sweetened her talks with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc by sprinkling in some promises of aid. Vietnam is under a new lockdown due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and she pledged vaccines and help in the distribution of the vaccines.
She announced that the U.S. will send 1 million additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Vietnam, bringing the total U.S. vaccine donation to Vietnam to 6 million doses.
The U.S. will also provide $23 million to help Vietnam expand distribution and access to vaccines, combat the pandemic and prepare for future disease threats. The Defense Department is also delivering 77 freezers to store vaccines throughout the country.
Vietnam is grappling with a new coronavirus surge driven by the delta variant and low vaccination rates. Only about 2% of the country’s 98 million people are fully vaccinated, and the surge in cases prompted a recent lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s business hub and the center of the latest outbreak.
In the afternoon, Harris announced the launch of a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Southeast Asia regional office. The new office will be one of four regional CDC offices globally, and is focused on collaborating with regional governments on research and training to deal with and prevent global health crises. She said that while combating the current pandemic is a priority, “we must be, if we are honest, better prepared for the next one.”
The new aid pledges also include investments to help the country transition to cleaner energy, expand the use of electric vehicles, and millions of dollars to help clear unexploded weapons left from the Vietnam War days.
I’ve been as critical as others on the optics of the vice-president traveling right now to Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam, given the situation in Afghanistan and our memories of the fall of Saigon. The timing is horrible but she’s there so we can only hope she doesn’t embarrass the United States too much. Her nervous cackle seems to be limited to her dealings with the American press and when she dips into random musings about early Christmas toy shopping because of potential disruptions in supply delivery chains in trade, as she did in Singapore, the Asians politely listen to her. It’s important to maintain strong ties in the region as China becomes a greater threat.
It was the three-year anniversary of John McCain’s death and Kamala laid flowers at the monument where his plane was shot down by the North Vietnamese in 1967.
Kamala wants the region to know that confronting China globally is a centerpiece of the Biden administration’s foreign policy. Color some of us skeptical, given the Biden family history of trying to wheel and deal in China for personal profit. The Big Guy always gets ten percent, we were told. How attentive is Sleepy Joe going to be? The President-in-Waiting is building relationships in preparation for her eventual takeover, should the Big Guy not make it through all four years of his term in office.