Amid the US image crisis after the failed troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, which brought the Taliban back to power in the country, US Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Asia with the challenge of reducing mistrust between the allied countries.
The trip to Singapore and Vietnam had been planned since late July, before the United States suspected the Islamic fundamentalist group was coming to power so quickly. The main objective of the mission is to strengthen the American presence in the South China Sea region, a strategic area of great economic importance over which the Chinese claim control, which is contested by other nations.
But, on the first day of the trip, Afghanistan was the mandatory subject, and Kamala had to give an explanation on Monday (23), with the Biden government under pressure by what was seen as a disastrous operation around the world.
The vice president dodged questions about the country’s loss of credibility, responding that “there will be enough time to analyze what happened in the context of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan,” in an interview with the press with the Prime Minister of Singapore. “But for now, we are only focusing on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who have worked with us, and Afghans who are vulnerable, including women and children,” he said.
“I am here because the United States is a world leader and we take it seriously.”
The statement comes at a time when rival American nations such as China and Russia are using the example of Afghanistan to signal countries in their orbit what can happen if they trust Americans too much. That’s what China did to Taiwan right after the government fell in Kabul, and what Russia said to Ukraine, for example.
“Today we are in Singapore to underline and reaffirm our enduring commitment to this country and this region, and to strengthen our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Kamala said on Monday (23).
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong praised the “assurances of the United States’ intentions in the region and the world”, but said the remaining vision of the Americans will be determined by what the country “does in the country. ‘future, how it will reposition itself in the region, as it will affect a wide range of friends, partners and allies, “he said.
Despite being a strong trade and strategic partner of the United States, Singapore seeks not to take sides in the country’s conflict with China, a superpower that dominates the region and even lends its language to the city-state. But the country, the largest port in Southeast Asia, supports free shipping in the region.
“I reaffirmed at our meeting the United States’ commitment to work with our allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific to enforce rules based on international order and freedom of navigation, including by South China Sea, ”said the vice president of the USA.
The South China Sea, which bathes the coasts of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, is a strategic sea route with potential for oil and gas exploration, control of which is claimed by China, but challenged by other countries, including the United States.
The White House announced Monday that among the agreements reached with Singapore during the official visit are the presence of combat ships and P-8 military jets, which is expected to increase tensions with China.
In addition to military agreements, the two countries have signed cooperation treaties on cybersecurity and climate change and for further assistance in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
From Singapore, Kamala Harris will travel to Vietnam on Tuesday (24), a country which has returned to debate in the United States due to the similarity between the scenes of the American withdrawal from Kabul with what was seen in 1975 in Saigon, another historic military defeat of the parents.