Harris reaffirms U.S. commitment to Indo-Pacific amid Singapore visit

Aug 24 , 2021. 11 hours ago – 22:27 KYODO NEWS

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attend a joint press conference on Aug. 23, 2021, in Singapore. (Photo courtesy of the Singaporean government)(Kyodo)

SINGAPORE – U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to the Indo-Pacific region in talks with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the second day of her Asia trip.

“Today we are in Singapore to stress and reaffirm our enduring relationship to this country and this region and to reinforce a shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Harris said in a joint press conference with Lee after their meeting.

The vice president, who arrived in the city-state on Sunday as part of her first official trip to Southeast Asia, said she and Lee also discussed the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and evacuation efforts in Kabul, which have been fraught with complications.

“There’s no question there will be and should be a robust analysis of what has happened,” Harris said in a response to reporters’ questions.

“But right now we are singularly focused on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us and Afghans who are vulnerable, including women and children,” she said.

Lee said at the press conference that he had offered the use of the Singapore air force’s Airbus A330 multirole tanker and transporter aircraft to assist the U.S. evacuation efforts.

“We hope Afghanistan does not become an epicenter for terrorism again,” he said.

Harris said she also reaffirmed “the United States’ commitment to working with our allies and partners around the Indo-Pacific to uphold the rules-based international order, and freedom of navigation, including in the South China Sea” during the meeting.

Her comment underscored the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden’s efforts in strengthening cooperation with its partners and like-minded countries to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region and the South China Sea where Beijing has been pushing its territorial claims and building military outposts.

Harris and Lee also discussed the political crisis in Myanmar and the international community’s role in helping its people regain democracy.

They said their talks also encompassed bilateral cooperation for tackling the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, ensuring cyber security and strengthening supply chains.

Addressing the vulnerability of supply chains that were exposed during the pandemic through the shortage of masks and other basic goods, Harris said the United States wanted to work with other countries in the region to reinforce them.

“Supply chains, without any question, are critical to ensuring that businesses can source the materials they need and get products to market and enable people to buy these products,” she said by citing an example of semiconductor chips, which have been in short supply in the United States.

Harris will deliver a policy speech on Tuesday and is also scheduled to meet business leaders in Singapore to discuss shoring up supply chains in the two countries before leaving for her next stop, Vietnam.