Kamala Harris, Vice President, stated Monday that the U.S. should keep its eyes on Afghanistan and the vulnerable Afghans and not get distracted by the questions about what went wrong with the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Harris refused to answer questions about what she thought should have been done differently during the withdrawal at a Singapore news conference.
She stated that while there is no doubt there will be an analysis of what happened, there is no doubt that we must now focus on evacuating American citizens and Afghans who worked alongside us, as well as vulnerable Afghans including women and children.
After meeting for approximately two hours, Harris and Lee Hsien Loong took questions from Harris. They discussed issues such as the COVID-19 response, cybersecurity, and supply chain cooperation. After the U.S. withdrawal, concerns over America’s commitments towards its global allies led to Afghanistan dominating the news conference.
This week’s trip by Harris to Singapore and Vietnam is seen as the first test of the Biden administration’s ability to reassure key allies about its resolve.
The Prime Minister Lee expressed support for the U.S. withdrawal decision and stated that Singapore is “grateful” for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan to fight terrorism. He offered to the U.S. access to the transport aircraft of the Singapore Air Force for the evacuation and stated that the country was now monitoring what the U.S. does.
He said, “What is important is how the U.S. positions itself in the Asia Pacific and engages with the broader region, and continues fighting against terrorism. Because that will determine the perceptions by the countries of the U.S. global priorities and its strategic intentions.”
Harris’ Southeast Asia trip will take her to Singapore, then to Vietnam, this week. It is intended to strengthen cooperation between the two countries to counter China’s increasing influence in the region.
Monday’s announcement by the vice president’s office was a set of new agreements between Singapore and the United States. These agreements are aimed at fighting cyberthreats, combating climate change, and alleviating supply chain problems.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Treasury and Defense Departments have signed a memorandum with Singapore to expand information sharing and training in cybersecurity.
They agreed to work more closely together to identify COVID-19 variants, and to conduct research on coronavirus treatments. The Department of Commerce and the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry have joined forces to form a partnership aimed at strengthening trade in a few key industries.
The White House announced that additional agreements were made between the two countries to foster cooperation in space exploration and defense matters. After Harris’ meeting with Singapore President Halimah Yacob, Prime Minister Lee and other officials, the White House announced additional agreements.
Harris spoke to sailors at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base on Monday and expressed gratitude to the U.S. soldiers, embassy staff and marines who worked in an “incredibly difficult and dangerous environment” in order to evacuate Afghanistan.
Harris will give a speech Tuesday outlining the Biden administration’s vision for the region and meet with business leaders in order to discuss supply chain problems. Harris appeared to be anticipating her Tuesday speech at Changi Naval Base, where she described the Indo-Pacific region “critical to the security, prosperity, and security of the United States.”
“I believe that a large part of the history for the 21st Century will be written about the region in which you currently serve. She said that we should be the ones who help to dictate and shape this history.
This is Harris’ second trip abroad in office. She visited Guatemala and Mexico last June. It will also mark the first visit by a U.S. Vice President to Vietnam.
Singapore is the U.S. Navy’s anchor in Southeast Asia. The country has a strong trade partnership with the U.S. but also seeks strong ties to China and a neutral position amid increasingly hostile U.S.-China relations.
The relations between the U.S.A and China have deteriorated dramatically under Donald Trump’s predecessor. Both sides continue to be at odds over a variety of issues, including cybersecurity and human rights.
U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken, and U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin went on their first overseas visits to Japan and South Korea. Austin visited Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines last month. He pledged U.S. support for Beijing’s invasions in the South China Sea.
Alexander Feldman, the president and CEO US-ASEAN Business council, stated that Harris must be mindful in her discussions with Singapore’s leaders to not focus too much on China but instead to stress a positive, productive U.S. partnership with Singapore and Vietnam.
She could fall for a trap by trying to make this a China versus U.S. trip. Feldman stated that it should be a U.S. visit to our Southeast Asian friends and partners.
He said that if China is the focal point of the region, it would make it more difficult for friends to move forward in the region, not just in Singapore and Vietnam, but also beyond.
In fact, Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Foreign Minister, stated in a recent interview, that Singapore would “be useful, but we won’t be made use” in its relations to both countries. The nation’s prime minister has previously warned the U.S. not to pursue an aggressive approach towards China.
Beijing has however seized on Harris’ trip. China’s official Xinhua News Agency issued an editorial Saturday on the visit, portraying it as part a drive to contain China.
Senior Biden officials have made visits to Southeast Asia to try to “woo these nations to form a circle of containment against China.” Xinhua stated that the ‘wishful plan of America’ to take sides with China will fail because most countries in Southeast Asia are not willing to make the choice.
According to the editorial, the U.S. approach to China is based on “outdated Cold War thinking” and is meant to cause problems in their relations with China, create tension and confrontation, and create a ring for containment.