US VP Harris to visit Vietnam, Singapore: White House

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Kamala Harris will become the first sitting US vice president ever to visit Vietnam, when she travels there and to Singapore on a trip to boost ties in Southeast Asia in August, 2021
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US Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Vietnam and Singapore next month to discuss regional security issues and the global Covid-19 pandemic response, the White House announced Friday.

Harris heads to the Southeast Asian nations "to strengthen relationships and expand economic cooperation with two critical Indo-Pacific partners of the United States," senior advisor Symone Sanders said in a statement.

Harris, an Asian-American whose mother was of Indian origin, will be the first US vice president to visit Vietnam.

A schedule for the August trip has yet to be released.

It comes with Beijing adopting an increasingly assertive posture in the South China Sea, where it has made expansive and controversial territorial claims.

Neighbor Vietnam also has competing claims in the resource rich sea, one of the world's main shipping and trade routes.

President Joe Biden wants to reset relations with Asian countries and build alliances to face Beijing, after the turbulence and unpredictability of the Donald Trump era.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is visiting Southeast Asia this week.

Speaking in Singapore on Tuesday, he said China's claim to the vast majority of the waters had "no basis in international law" and reiterated that Washington would support countries defending their rights.

Sanders said Washington has a "top priority to rebuild our global partnerships and keep our nation secure, and this upcoming visit continues that work -- deepening our engagement in Southeast Asia."

Harris will engage with the two countries' leaders on regional security, the global response to the pandemic, actions to address climate change, "and our joint efforts to promote a rules-based international order."

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