Harris meets with Singapore officials to begin Asia visit

Aug 22, 2021, 4:26 PM | Updated: Aug 23, 2021, 8:56 am
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, right, is welcomed by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong...

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, right, is welcomed by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana in Singapore Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

(Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

SINGAPORE (AP) — The White House on Monday announced a series of new agreements with Singapore aimed at combating cyberthreats, tackling climate change, addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and alleviating supply chain issues. The announcements coincide with Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the region, as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to counter Chinese influence there.

On cybersecurity, the Treasury and Defense Departments, as well as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, have each inked a memorandum of understanding with their Singapore counterparts expanding information sharing and training to combat cyber threats,

On climate, the two nations are launching the U.S.-Singapore Climate Partnership, a new effort between the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Transportation and Treasury and their counterparts in Singapore to develop new climate standards and collaborate on projects to expand clean energy infrastructure development and improve sustainability.

The two nations agreed to cooperate more closely to track COVID-19 variants and engage in research on coronavirus treatments. And the Department of Commerce is joining with the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry to create a partnership focused on strengthening trade throughout a handful of key industries.

The White House announced additional agreements between the two nations fostering cooperation on space exploration and defense issues as well. The announcements came Monday after Harris met with Singapore President Halimah Yacob, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Harris’ Southeast Asian trip, which brings Harris to Singapore and then later to Vietnam this week, is aimed at broadening cooperation with both nations to offer a counterweight to China’s growing influence in the region.

On Monday morning, Harris participated in a welcome ceremony outside the Istana, the presidential palace, where she held her hand over her heart while a marching band played the Star Spangled Banner. She then walked around the courtyard, reviewing the band, accompanied by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Loong then showed her a species of an orchid that was named in her honor, and Harris participated in a brief courtesy call with President Halimah Yacob, before heading into a series of bilateral meetings with the prime minister.

After her meetings, the vice president will participate in a joint news conference, and later visit the Changi Naval Base, where she’ll speak to American sailors aboard the USS Tulsa, a combat ship.

On Tuesday, Harris will deliver a speech outlining the Biden administration’s vision for the region, and meet with business leaders to discuss supply chain issues.

The trip marks Harris’ second foreign trip — she visited Guatemala and Mexico in June — and will be the first time a U.S. vice president has visited Vietnam.

Singapore is the anchor of the U.S. naval presence in Southeast Asia and has a deep trade partnership with the U.S., but the country also seeks to maintain strong ties with China and a position of neutrality amid increasingly frosty U.S.-China relations.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated sharply under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, and the two sides remain at odds over a host of issues including technology, cybersecurity and human rights.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made their first overseas trips to Japan and South Korea. Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines last month and he vowed U.S. support against Beijing’s intrusions in the South China Sea.

Harris is expected to emphasize the need for a free and open Indo-Pacific region in her conversations with Singapore’s and Vietnam’s leaders.

Alexander Feldman, president and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council, said Harris will have to be careful in her conversations with Singapore’s leaders not to focus too heavily on China, but to emphasize a positive, productive U.S. relationship with Singapore and Vietnam.

“Where she could fall into a trap is really trying to pit this as a U.S. versus China trip. it should be a U.S. trip to our friends and partners in in Southeast Asia,” Feldman said.

If China becomes the main focal point, he said, “that makes it harder for our friends to move forward across the region, not only in Singapore and Vietnam but beyond that.”

Indeed, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a recent interview that Singapore will “be useful but we will not be made use of” in its relations with both countries, and the nation’s prime minister previously warned the U.S. against pursuing an aggressive approach to China.

Beijing, however, has seized on the visit, with China’s official Xinhua News Agency issuing an editorial Saturday on Harris’ trip portraying it as part of a drive to contain China.

Visits to Southeast Asia by senior Biden officials are aiming to “woo these countries to form a ring of containment against China. But Southeast Asian countries are reluctant to choose sides between China and the United States, and America’s ‘wishful plan’ will end in failure,” Xinhua said.

The U.S. approach is based on “outdated Cold War thinking and is intended to provoke troubles in their relations with China, create division and confrontation, and try to create a ring of containment,” the editorial said.

While Harris navigates the challenging diplomacy surrounding the issue of China, she’ll also face the task of reassuring key U.S. allies of America’s commitment to Southeast Asia, in the wake of the tumultuous Afghanistan exit. Images of desperate Afghans mobbing American plans leaving Kabul have drawn comparisons to images from the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War.

Harris’ aides have been careful to emphasize that while she remains deeply engaged on the situation in Afghanistan, the Southeast Asia trip was planned well before the recent events, and they say Harris’ work in Singapore and Vietnam is important, independent of the developments in Afghanistan.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Tubes direct blood from a donor into a bag in Davenport, Iowa, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.  Th...
Associated Press

FDA eases rules again for gay men seeking to donate blood

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is moving to ease restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men and other groups that traditionally face higher risks of HIV. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday announced draft guidelines that would do away with the current three-month abstinence requirement for donations from men who have sex […]
8 hours ago
FILE -Brian Walshe listens during his arraignment Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, at Quincy District Cour...
Associated Press

Internet evidence key, but not enough in no-body murder case

BOSTON (AP) — Prosecutors in Massachusetts are basing their murder case against a man whose wife is presumed dead but whose body has not been found in large part on a series of gruesome internet searches he made around the time of her disappearance. Scouring data on personal electronic devices is a common strategy in […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Explosion in Polish parish house kills 1, injures 7

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Officials in southern Poland said that a person was found dead Friday after an explosion demolished half of an old Evangelical parish house in the city of Katowice. The explosion injured at least seven people, and one person remained missing, according to the regional governor. Gov. Jaroslaw Wieczorek said two women […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Ford recalls nearly 383K SUVs to fix backup camera problem

DETROIT (AP) — Ford is recalling nearly 383,000 SUVs in the U.S. because the touch screens may not display a camera image when backing up. The recall covers certain 2020 to 2023 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators, and some 2020 to 2022 Lincoln Corsairs. All are equipped with 360-degree cameras. Ford says in government documents […]
8 hours ago
A new Jeep is delivered to a dealership in Pittsburgh on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. On Friday, the Comm...
Associated Press

US inflation and consumer spending cooled in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge eased further in December, and consumer spending fell — the latest evidence that the Fed’s series of interest rate hikes are slowing the economy. Friday’s report from the Commerce Department showed that prices rose 5% last month from a year earlier, down from a 5.5% year-over-year […]
8 hours ago
Coal miner Jonny Sandvoll poses for a portrait in the break room of the Gruve 7 coal mine in Advent...
Associated Press

Norway’s last Arctic miners struggle with coal mine’s end

ADVENTDALEN, Norway (AP) — Kneeling by his crew as they drilled steel bolts into the low roof of a tunnel miles-deep into an Arctic mountain, Geir Strand reflected on the impact of their coal mine’s impending closure. “It’s true coal is polluting, but … they should have solution before they close us down,” Strand said […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Harris meets with Singapore officials to begin Asia visit