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August 20, 2021 @ 08:40 +03:00
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is expected on Sunday to start her official visit to Southeast Asia — a region where China’s economic and political influence has grown in recent years. Harris is scheduled to arrive in Singapore on Sunday, before heading to Vietnam on Tuesday and departing the region on Thursday.
President Joe Biden has made it a priority to bolster U.S. standing in Asia, and strengthening ties with Southeast Asian countries is an important part of Washington’s goal to keep China’s ambitions in check. Southeast Asia is home to more than 660 million people and some of the fastest-growing developing economies. The region’s strategic importance also lies in its proximity to the South China Sea, a vital commercial shipping route where trillions of dollars of global trade pass through each year.
The vice president’s visit followed several high-level U.S. engagements with Southeast Asian leaders. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attended virtual meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or Asean earlier this month, while Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited several countries in the region in July, including Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Compared to the Trump administration, Biden and his team appeared much more “thoughtful and measured” in their engagement with Southeast Asian countries, said Angela Mancini, partner and head of Asia Pacific markets at consultancy Control Risks.
She explained that while the U.S.-China strategic rivalry is the “number one” bipartisan foreign policy issue in the U.S., the Biden administration acknowledges that Southeast Asian countries wouldn’t want to choose between the U.S. and China.
Kamala Harris is set to visit Southeast Asia as U.S.-China tensions rise. Here’s what to expect, CNBC, Aug 20