Vice President Kamala Harris He leaves for Thailand and the Philippines on Wednesday to present the United States as a “better partner” for economic stability in the Indo-Pacific amid China’s bid to expand its influence in the region. The vice president’s visit follows a week-long trip to the same region by President Joe Biden as he seeks to assert American leadership abroad.
The Vice President will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit, hold bilateral meetings with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, as well as meet with other leaders, local activists and others. . Prominent women to reaffirm US economic commitment to Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asia.
“This case is based on the president’s current and ongoing visit to Southeast Asia,” a senior administration official told reporters in a briefing describing the back-to-back visits. “And when you put the two together, I think it shows that we have a deepening connection in this region. Efforts by both the president and the vice president to strengthen our alliances in the region and invest in its important institutions.”
Harris is visiting the area after Biden returns to Washington for his granddaughter’s wedding.
He will double down on “economic growth and protecting American workers and businesses” as key themes throughout his visit, his second trip to the region while in office.
A senior administration official told CNN that the vice president will also visit the Philippine island of Palawan next week during his trip to Asia. It is a move that could raise tensions with China over its proximity to the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Harris, who will visit Palawan next Tuesday, will be the highest-ranking US official to visit the island, the official said.
Reuters He first reported Harris’ visit.
Harris, the first US vice president for South Asia, lands in Bangkok on Thursday local time and will attend a leaders’ retreat for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ meeting on Friday and Saturday.
“It will lay out the core principles we need to guide APEC economies and unite other economies around our vision for the future of rules-based international economic order,” a senior administration official said.
The vice president is likely to hold meetings with leaders as part of the summit, but a senior administration official would not say whether Harris will meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who is scheduled to attend.
Biden held three hours of talks with his Chinese counterpart on Monday, their first in-person meeting since Biden took office and an opportunity that both sides hope will lead to an improvement in rapidly deteriorating relations. The meeting, which Biden later called “open and honest,” eased some of the tension between the rival countries.
But on Friday, Harris will present the US as the region’s “better partner” when he delivers his greetings at the APEC CEO summit.
“There is no better partner for the economies and companies of the Indo-Pacific countries than the United States,” said a senior administration official. Harris’ remarks will touch on the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, launched earlier this year and covering supply chains, climate, chip manufacturing and more.
“When you put it all together, frankly, we think it tells a very positive story with significant resources brought to the table. We know that there is a strong demand for increased economic participation by the United States. And the vice president will make it clear that we have answered the call to increase economic presence,” the senior administration official added.
Harris’ bilateral meeting with Thailand’s Prayuth comes on Saturday and will focus on “accelerating the clean energy transition and the climate crisis and economic development.” More results from new initiatives and funding are expected.
And the official said they expect the vice president to talk about Myanmar, which Biden highlighted during his trip to Cambodia and Indonesia.
Before flying to Manila on Sunday, the vice president will hold a climate and energy roundtable with environmental activists focusing on the Mekong region.
On Monday, Harris will meet with Philippine counterpart Sara Vicenta Zimmerman Duterte-Carpio to confirm defense commitments ahead of a bilateral meeting with President Marcos.
“The Vice President will reaffirm our defense commitment to the Philippines and the importance of our alliance to peace and stability in the South China Sea. They will discuss the protection of international rules and norms,” said a senior administration official.
On Monday, Harris will participate in a moderated conversation with an audience of young Filipino women, continuing her efforts to meet women while traveling abroad.
Finally, Harris will travel to Puerto Princesa, Palawan to meet with “residents, civil society leaders and representatives of the Philippine Coast Guard,” a senior administration official noted. He will “reiterate the importance of international law, unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.”
Beijing claims to control almost the entire South China Sea. China’s claims there stretch almost as far as the Philippines and include disputed island groups such as the Spratly Islands.
But, as CNN previously reported, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines also have claims in the Spratly chain, where China has turned dark rocks and sandbars into artificial islands fortified with missiles, runways and weapons systems.
“This visit demonstrates the commitment of the Biden Harris administration to our ally, the Philippines, to uphold international maritime rules, support maritime livelihoods, and standardize the fight against illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing,” he said.
Harris will also make remarks “underscoring the importance of international law to unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.”
“China can get the message it wants,” a senior administration official said of Harris’ weeklong visit.
“The message to the region is that the United States is a member of the Indo-Pacific. We are engaged. We are committed to the security of our allies in the region,” they added. “We are both friends and partners. And so it’s a positive agenda for us, not some kind of negative to compete with somebody else.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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