Harris ends Asia tour with fresh jab at China

Hanoi: Vice President Kamala Harris launched a new broadside against China as she ended her Southeast Asian tour in Hanoi Thursday, warning the US would continue to push back against Beijing’s claims in disputed Asian waters.

The comments came on the final day of a regional trip in which Washington has sought to reset relations in Asia after the turbulent Donald Trump years and stress its commitment to Southeast Asian allies.

During the trip, Harris had already accused Beijing twice of bullying its neighbours in the resource-rich South China Sea — and on Thursday she again took aim at the Asian giant.

"We’re going to speak up when there are actions that Beijing takes that threaten the rules-based international order… such as activity in the South China Sea,” Harris said.

"Freedom of navigation… is a vital issue for this region.”

Harris’ Vietnam visit had been slammed by critics as tone-deaf given the parallels between this week’s chaotic scenes in Kabul and the 1975 evacuation of Saigon.

Washington had also faced questions over its reliability following the US withdrawal and Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

But Harris has tried to steer clear of the historical parallels, instead emphasising American commitment to the region by opening a Southeast Asia branch of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Hanoi and donating a million Covid-19 vaccines to Vietnam.

"In the years ahead we will be back time and time again,” she told journalists Thursday.

Vietnam is facing its most serious wave of the pandemic so far — with both Hanoi and commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City in lockdown for weeks — and the gift was widely praised on social media. – AFP